November 06, 2007

So... I Deleted Excel

Sometime in the last week, I removed Microsoft Excel from my computer. You might think I went on some weird, Mac OS X Leopard-inspired anti-Redmond bent, but that's not the case. I honestly have absolutely no idea how it happened, or when I did it, but one day it was there, and the next, it wasn't. And while it's certainly annoying, it's forced me to check out Apple's Numbers application, and while it's a "passing" spreadsheet app, it would certainly take some getting used to for any spreadsheet junkie, myself included.

I found out my Excel was missing after downloading an .xls Excel file, double-clicking and surprisingly finding it opening in Numbers. At first, I thought that Leopard had made Numbers the default application for .xls files, but then, when I clicked on the Excel icon in my dock, I got a transparent question mark over the icon, the universal symbol for "This application doesn't live here any more".


Nowhere near my Microsoft Office CD, nor near an older laptop where I could copy over my Excel, I had to give Numbers a twirl. The first task? Taking that .xls document, making changes, and then saving it as a comma separated value file, or .csv. So, like any good Excel pro, I hit "Save As", and added .csv to the extension, but Numbers wanted no part of it. In fact, Apple wanted me to instead use the extension ".numbers", which makes absolutely no sense, even if I weren't raised in a DOS-like "8.3" world.

Instead, I had to go to File and choose "Export", and decide if I wanted a PDF, Excel document, or a CSV file. Not very intuitive. Later, when I went to sort the columns alphabetically by "First Name" and found myself looking for the "A-Z" option so common in Excel, instead, I found a "Sort & Filter" button which was okay enough, but didn't have a way to indicate it had a header row. Annoying.

The OpenOffice crowd has learned that the best way to have users learn their office applications quickly is to closely mimic the market leader. And while I'm not suggesting Apple copy Microsoft's every move, even a computer-savvy geek like me has so far been left wanting more from the company's would-be Excel replacement. Over the last week, my occasional interactions with Numbers have had me looking forward to getting Excel back. While if forced to live only with Numbers, I now know I could do it, I have yet to see the one killer feature from Numbers that would make me switch, and the little glitches now and again that run contrary to my expectations make me, for once, ready to crawl back and feast from the Redmond table.