3 underused features in Apple's Numbers spreadsheet app

Apple's Numbers for Mac is a simple and powerful spreadsheet app. Here are three tips for ensuring you get the most out of the program.

Image: Erik Eckel/TechRepublic

If you're like many Numbers for Mac users, you likely jump right into creating and editing spreadsheets the same way every time you use the program. However, just as with Pages for Mac, Numbers comes with features that many users overlook; you can leverage these features to build more attractive spreadsheets faster. Here are three tips for maximizing Numbers.

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1: Pre-formatted templates

I once worked with a former Microsoft staffer who repeatedly recommended I consult an application's Help feature whenever I asked a question regarding how to perform a specific action. I didn't want to do the research — I just wanted someone to tell me the answer. But, I found he was correct. Most questions I asked were already addressed within the Help file.

Don't make the same mistake as me when creating new spreadsheets in Numbers by believing you need to do all the work yourself. Apple's designers have already created templates (categories include Basic, Personal Finance, Personal, Business, and Education) and completed the formatting, design, and calculation work — you just have to remember to use these pre-formatted templates.

The next time you create a Numbers spreadsheet, or a checklist, budget, schedule, log, planner, or an invoice, check out the pre-formatted templates included with the application. In addition to new simple budget and shared expense templates, you'll find numerous others for creating such files.

Leverage templates by clicking New Document when opening Numbers and navigating the Choose A Template window that appears. You can also recall the Choose A Template window by clicking New from the File menu whenever Numbers is open.

2: Enhanced collaboration features

Business documents are rarely developed by a single individual; often, teams work together to create, edit, and revise files, including spreadsheets, charts, logs, schedules, and checklists. Numbers includes collaboration features that make sharing and annotating Numbers files easy. Shared Numbers spreadsheets can now be previewed within iOS and Android browsers, making it easier for team members to access files while on the go.

To share a Numbers file, open the file and select Share from the File menu. Users can choose to share a link to the file via iCloud or to share the file via Mail, AirDrop, Notes, or Message.

Users can add comments and annotations by clicking Insert and selecting Comment. A text box appears in which a comment can be added. Once the comment is added, a yellow box appears next to the location where the annotation was added. Mousing over the box displays the comment, as does clicking View and selecting Comments.

If many authors and editors are working from the same document, users can opt to specify comment colors (one for each author), making it easier to track which comments are provided by which users. Users can adjust their author comment color by clicking View, selecting Comments, and choosing Author Color, where a variety of colors will be displayed and an alternative can be selected.

3: Images in tables and charts

Improving and customizing a spreadsheet's appeal shouldn't be an overly complex task. Numbers permits users to fill a shape or text box with an image, such as a corporate logo, a product photo, or a similar element.

To fill a shape or a text box with an image, select a shape or a text box. Click the Style tab in the right-hand sidebar. If you don't see the sidebar, select the paintbrush icon within the toolbar.

Click the Fill menu's drop-down icon and select Image Fill. Click Choose and specify the location of the image you wish to use.

Odds are you may need to edit the way the image displays within the shape or text box (which occurred when I chose to display a corporate logo within a pie chart's specific wedge). Edit the subsequent image by choosing an option from the pop-up menu that appears above the Choose button within the Style sidebar. Select the option you wish to execute. Choices will include Original Size, Stretch, Tile, Scale To Fill, and Scale To Fit.

Other Numbers tips?

Do you have favorite Numbers for Mac tips? If so, submit your preferred shortcuts in the discussion.

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About Erik Eckel

Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president o...

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