Apple's iWork '09 Numbers spreadsheet is a versatile app with a lot of power available if you open your mind and don't expect it to be Excel. It does not quite do everything Excel does, but it handles UTF-8 well (where Excel does not and has never), and I take advantage of that often. I also love the formatting options and the multiple-sheets-per-document paradigm, but that is a different post.
One challenge in both Excel and Numbers is how to handle fields with numbers with leading zeros. For instance, a part number 001234 will come out as 1234 when you import it from a CSV in either app, and lose meaning if the actual part must include the leading zeros. You can set a cell or column format in Excel as 000000, and this works the same way in Numbers, except the method's a little unfamiliar.
How to Format a Part Number Field to Preserve Leading Zeros
Here's how to not maim your part numbers.
- Select your column to format, and open the Cells inspector.
- Select Custom Format from Cell Format then click Show Format.
- Give the format a name, and choose the base type.
- Delete whatever format is in there by default and drag up an Integers type lozenge.
- Open the disclosure triangle, and choose "Show Zeros for Unused Digits" and you will see the #,### change to 0,000. Click Show Separator to deselect it and remove the comma. Add two digits.
- Click OK to save and apply the format to the selected column.
If you set the format as 000000 for a field that includes six digit numerics with leading zeros, and a mix of text with numeric part numbers, such as:
... the latter will not be affected by the format, which is just the right behavior we need.
I hope this tip helps someone, because not being able to set this really drove me a bit batty. Enjoy!