Apple Numbers 3.6 for Mac review: Apple’s Excel killer just got interesting

“Numbers is Apple’s easy-to-use spreadsheet program, offered as a home-grown alternative to Microsoft Excel,” Cliff Joseph writes for Macworld UK. “It’s ideal for users looking to create and edit spreadsheets without the cost or know-how required to use the more complex and expensive Excel.”

“It’s not quite right to pitch Numbers as a low-end version of Excel, as there’s a clear difference in focus between the two programs. Numbers concentrates more on the graphical presentation of spreadsheet data, providing excellent tools for quickly creating graphs and charts, and even for working with photos and other graphics,” Joseph writes. “Numbers has never really attempted to match the endless range of maths functions and analytical tools that have always been Excel’s great strength in the business world. ”

“From rather crude beginnings, the collaborative features in Numbers and other iWork apps now work quite effectively. Of course, collaboration remains another area where the business-oriented Excel is hard to beat,” Joseph writes. “However, the iOS version of Excel requires a subscription to Microsoft Office 365, so having free versions of Numbers available on the Mac, iOS and iCloud is a useful and inexpensive option for people who don’t need the full power of Excel.”

Much more in the full review here.

MacDailyNews Take: Numbers is now the only spreadsheet application we use. It’s rock-solid reliable and more intuitive and less bloated than Excel. Sharing between Macs, iPhones, and iPads is a breeze.


  1. Numbers is only interesting until you hit that wall and realize that you really need excel.

    Its a great app if your spreadsheet needs are minimal or casual.

    I have never expected numbers to be an Excel killer, more like a different product for users with different needs.

    1. Excel is only interesting until you hit that wall and realize that you really need Numbers.

      Its a great app if you don’t need to organize and present your data in a way that most people can understand.

      1. Numbers is easy enough for most people making it less useful for some people. If Apple wants Excel users to switch it Numbers has to be comparable to and compatible with Excel.

        1. Then what’s the point? Excel has a huge presence in the market, it’s got a large audience that’s put in the effort to learn it (or have been forced to use it by corporate ukase), and it has a lot of capability.

          There are likely a lot more people who don’t need all its capabilities, and who do not want to or cannot climb the steep learning curve.

          Apple is clearly looking to the second group, and has little or no interest in switching users from Excel to Numbers.

          1. My great preference for Pages, Numbers et al is precisely because it is accessible, natural, logical and easy to do things I need to do. I don’t need any of the complexity of Word or Excel and the appalling spaghetti interface whatever flavour of the month version its sporting this month. If they tried to offer all the complexity and options of the Office suite I would equally have to spend all my time trying to work out which hidden menu could alter whatever unrequited setting in them rather than doing the work I need to do. As said trying to be all things to all users is often a nightmare especially when such files are sent to us than doing certain things well.

            Ask any designer what a nightmare it is to use Word files intricately formatted when the originator mistakes that program for a DTP program or when you get sent graphics presented to you in Excel because they don’t know any better. I will now return to using my Bill Gates printed dartboard to let off a little more steam.

      2. There is literally nothing that can be done in Numbers that can’t be done in Excel while going the other direction there is a long list of things that can be done in Excel that you cannot do in Numbers.

        There is nothing wrong with that as they are two very different products aimed at different users.

        Its a free app. For what it does its great. For the pros there is Excel and I’m happy to spend the money for the rich feature set it delivers.

  2. “We wouldn’t use Numbers in a work environment, but it does create great charts for presentations, and for home projects it has a lot of potential.”

    Yeah, Microsoft is quaking in their boots after this review. The software equivalent of “But it has a nice personality.” About that Apple software quality issue…

    (In fairness, I do use Numbers more than Excel but I don’t do quantitative analysis on either)

  3. I think that in order for Apple to make a dent any further into the Office world, they need to consider making Pages, Keynote, and Numbers for Windows. Granted, I’m not a big fan of Windows, but Windows still us 70+% of the market, and many businesses are still dependent on it. Many PC users I know of hate how convoluted Windows is, and how much of a mess it’s become over the years with 8 and 10, perhaps Apple can shed some light on the darkness.

    1. Already, a Windows user can create a free account at and use Pages, Numbers, and Keynote in a web browser, with cloud storage of their content

      Perhaps Apple has a secret team working on Windows-native versions of the 3 apps. If and when they’re released, perhaps they will be less buggy and feature-starved than were the original OSX-native versions.

    2. Windows versions would be a waste of time for Apple, as long as Apple’s in house CPU’s get better along with the software to go with the hardware, Apple will be fine.

    1. About 8 years ago I began writing custom engineering spreadsheet programs for analyzing customers applications, sizing equipment, and pricing. They use pretty hairy mathematical functions, even automatically selecting a product out of a table from the data in several other ones, and offering prompts for other components.

      I didn’t want to pay the MS tax and buy Excel for my Mac (I have a 2006 brain dead copy). I especially didn’t like the attitude of MS about Macs and ditching the formular bar at the top.

      I considered Numbers at the time (and since), but one of my goals was to give my customers the spreadsheet programs so they could fill them out and send them back for us to finish. I knew I could get customers on any platform to download LibreOffice for free, and we could all use the same spreadsheet. I also read about Excel errors in some math functions, which LO didn’t have.

      So, Excel was out for a platform due to cost, continued file changes, buggy math, and poor interface.

      Numbers was out for poor interface, questionable function library, lack of universal platform. I don’t want a spreadsheet with no formular bar. For math and engineering, that doesn’t work. I understand there may be ways to jerry-rig one, but why go to the effort when I don’t need to.

      LibreOffice, on the other hand, fit all the criteria. It uses a classical UI with the formular bar front and center, it has robust functions. It is free for all platforms. It never changes file format, and it will import and export to Excel formats just fine. It went though a buggy period as a startup, but is now really strong.

      I am glad I made that decision and would do it again.

  4. I will use Number for simple spreadsheet applications such as multiple versions of a price list. If I want to do something more complex, I will use Filemaker which can do anything Excel can do and a lot more. Simple-Numbers, Complex-Filemaker, Excel-Never.

  5. Just want to add that Numbers work great for me, both private and in my business. I dont do huge finansial or multi-company econonomy. But I do market analysis, price calculations, business budgets and statistics. No need for Excel anymore.

  6. Numbers is an ok tool if you have simple requirements, but there is always the chance that you will find it is missing a feature you need for the job you are doing and end up back in excel.

    It is the same with Pages.

    Are you a consumer or a business person? Apple embrace the former and is thinking about whether to embrace the latter. I don’t hold out much hope here though, when the CEO says he can run Apple from an iPad. You do wonder who does the serious number crunching at Apple…

  7. One thing that is often overlooked is the overlap between Filemaker Pro and a spreadsheet.

    I need to use FMP and have become quite fluent in using it and I feel much more comfortable with using FMP for mathematical problems than a spreadsheet.

    The two are clearly quite different in approach, but there is a huge grey area where either can work well and I find the scripting features of FMP particularly easy to use when there is a need for complex data manipulation.

  8. I really wanted to like Numbers, primarily for its simplicity and also to save the $100/year I spend on Office 365. Unfortunately, Numbers has so many insurmountable “lack of feature” issues that I can’t use it. Even something simply like suppressing grid lines for print can’t be done. If you see it in Numbers, it will be printed. How archaic.

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