Numbers: Three Quick Tips!

OK, so Numbers isn’t Excel. But depending on your point of view, that can be a either a disappointing realization or an exciting one. I personally much prefer Apple’s spreadsheet program even though it’s less powerful—it does everything I need it to without a lot of muss or fuss. Today, I’m going to talk about a few of my favorite easy tricks for using Numbers, and maybe you’ll start to come around and ditch that Office 365 subscription yourself. 

1. Use Conditional Formatting. This feature works a lot like rules in Mail—“if this thing is true, then do this, but if this other thing is true instead, do a different thing.” Clear as mud, right? Well, here’s what I mean. I’ve set up some conditions on the cells below to say “If the number within you is greater than 1000, color the cell green; if it’s less than 500, color it blue.”

If you’re the type of person who likes to use Numbers as an expense tracker, this is a really handy way to call out where you’ve spent a lot of your money, for example. So how do you set this up? Well, first you’ll select the cells you want to apply the formatting to, and then click “Format” in the toolbar to slide your options out if they aren’t already visible.

Under those tabs on the right, choose the “Cell” one, and there you’ll see “Conditional Highlighting.”

You’ll set your parameters for what rules you want your cells to follow there.

And here’s your chance to go nuts. Do “greater than, less than,” as I’ve done above. Use text conditions to find cells that start with or end with certain words. 

Make conditions by date, even, and be sure to keep adding on those rules until you’re satisfied with the formatting options you’ve set. Then you’ll be able to visually screen your data faster, and your budget will thank you.

2. Do quick sums. With just a couple of clicks, you can add a formula that totals up a series of cells, whether your numbers are down a column or across a row. To do this, click on the cell where you’d like to put the sum, and select the Formula button in the toolbar.

Choose “Sum” from that list, and Numbers’ll automagically do just that.

As you can tell, though, you can also use this handy toolbar button to do averages, products, and more, quick as a wink. And if you need advanced options, pick “Create Formula” from under that button, and you’ll see all of the functions you can use (hint: there are a lot!). 

3. Use keyboard shortcuts to add rows and columns. I have a spreadsheet in which I track business expenses, and I’m constantly needing more rows. Hey, I’ve got to spend money to make money, right? Well, there are a couple of tedious ways to add rows or columns—I could drag the grabby bars at the bottom of my worksheet, say, to expand its area, or I could click on the little arrow next to a row or column’s number to add what I need from its contextual menu.

If you like keyboard shortcuts, though, this is pretty awesome. Basically, Option plus any of the arrow keys will add things in for you. Here are the choices:

    Option–Up Arrow: Adds a row above the one you’re on
    Option–Down Arrow: Adds a row below the one you’re on
    Option–Right Arrow: Adds a column to the right of the one you’re on
    Option–Left Arrow: Adds a column to the left of the one you’re on

If you ever use Numbers at all, I think those are well worth memorizing. They certainly save me a ton of time. And goodness knows that, as much as I do like Numbers, the less time I spend entering…well…numbers, the better.