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A few weeks ago I wrote an article about how to create a form or survey in Google Documents for the purposes of collecting contact information and other data. But recently I discovered a similar feature in the iOS version of Apple’s Numbers ’09. In this mobile version of the app, you can use a form to collect data, which automatically fills the rows of an adjoining spreadsheet.
This feature is not even present in the Mac version of Numbers. As you will see, the form feature is a more attractive way of collecting data, and more efficient than the pen and paper method.
Below is a sample Numbers form and how it looks on the iPad and iPhone. Admittedly, it doesn’t allow for any customization, for say adding your own background, logo, or changes to the font style.
But what it does offer is the ability to use Numbers to collect data and sync it between all your Apple devices, over iCloud and export as a PDF, Excel or Numbers document via email .
The form version is much easier to use than the spread sheet version on the iPad or iPhone because there’s no table that moves around, and it’s easier to tap on empty cells to input data. It’s perfect for using at a registration table at conferences or other events. You can collect data on the spot and not have to transcribe it later from paper registration sheets. And if your iOS device is on Wi-Fi or 3G, your data gets instantly backed up to iCloud.
Creating a Spreadsheet
Creating a spreadsheet and linking it to a form is relatively easy if you already know how to use Numbers ’09 on an iOS device. But I’m going to assume you don’t, and take you through the basic process. When you launch Numbers, tap on the + button and select Create Spreadsheet.
You will be presented with a standard spreadsheet at the top-left of the Template section. Tap on it. (Note: There are additional instructions for creating spreadsheets in the Getting Started manual in the Spreadsheet part of the app.)
Tap anywhere on the screen to bring up the gray handles. Tap and hold on the top-right button of the handle and move it to the right until you only have four columns. If you make a mistake anytime during this process, tap on the Undo button in the menubar.
Now tap on the top-left button of the handle, and then tap on the Brush icon in the menubar. Select Headers. Where it says Header Columns, change that number to 0. We don’t need column header for this tutorial. And where it says Footer Rows, change it to 1.
With the handle the still present, tap above the first column, and then select the Brush icon and Format button. Scroll down and select Text, which tells Numbers you want this column to be a text field. You will see later why this is important. Do this for all the columns.
Now tap on and give a title to each column in the Header, e.g., First Name, Last Name, Email, and Phone Number. As you create this part, you can also tap again on the Brush tool and select Cells to customize the text styles and fill color of the Header. The same goes for the Footer. You really don’t have to be fancy with this spreadsheet, because it’s only going to be used to collect data entered on the Form.
Create the Form
Now with your spreadsheet set up, tap on the + button to add a second sheet. Select New Form.
You will be asked to choose a table to link the Form to, so select the one you just created.
Your form is now ready to use. Again, you can’t customize it, but notice how it looks better than the spreadsheet. To test it out, fill out a couple of rows. Notice because you formatted each cell as Text, the text keyboard pops rather than the numbers keyboard. You can use the Next button to move the next empty text box. To move to a new record, simply tap the arrow button above the keyboard. To get rid of the keyboard, tap the little keyboard icon on the bottom-right.
Tip: if you’re going to be collecting lots of email addresses, you should create a shortcut snippet in Settings for common servers, like “yahoo.com” so you don’t have to type out this part of an address.
Now when tap back on your spreadsheet, you should see all the contact data you have inputted.
Add a Count Function
Spreadsheets typically use formulas and functions for calculation and reporting purposes. So lets add it in the Footer of your spreadsheet. Tap on the first far left cell in the Footer, and tap on the Functions key. From there, scroll down and tap on Statistical, and select the COUNTA function.
Tap highlight the “value” button and scroll back to tap the A2 cell; add colon, and then scroll down and tap on the last cell above the Footer cell. Tap the Check button, and it should give you the number of people listed in that row. The count gets updated each time new names are added.
There’s actually lots of uses for Numbers and the other two office suite apps that make up iWorks for iOS. Using a form on your iPad and/or iPhone is a smart, advanced way to collect data. Let us know what think of this feature, and how you might use it.