July 14, 2014, 1:29 PM — If your job (or even your personal life) requires you to do anything substantial with numbers, chances are you use a spreadsheet app to do it. As a Mac user, you've got plenty of choices among spreadsheet apps, but for most of us the choice comes down to three: Microsoft's Excel 2011; Apple's Numbers (version 3.2); and the browser-based Sheets section of Google Docs.
The one to use is really a personal choice, and that decision is not the focus of this article. (I personally prefer Excel, possibly because I've been using it for nearly 30 years). But regardless of the app you use, the question here is: How well do you know how to use it, really?
As a spreadsheet vet, I gave that question some thought and came up with the following list of things that I think every savvy spreadsheet jockey--not beginners, but people who've been using one of these apps for a while--should know. I'm not talking about any specific task. Rather, these are the techniques and concepts that I think you should know in order to graduate from casual to serious user.
1. Format Numbers
Because numbers can take many forms (decimals, integers, percentages), you need to apply formatting to make it clear what they mean. For example, most people would find it easier to understand 25% as opposed to 0.25. So, after you enter the number in a cell and select that cell:
Excel: Many often-used number formatting options are visible in the Home ribbon. You can also use the Format > Cells menu, then click Number in the dialog box that appears. All number formats are listed down the left edge of the dialog box; select one, and its options appear on the right.
The Custom option (recently added to Numbers as well) is especially useful, as you can combine text with your formatted number. For example, a format of #,##0.00 "widgets" would format your number with a comma if needed, two decimal places, and the word widgets after the number. Your cells will still be treated as numbers for use in calculations, but they will display with the defined text.