10 Tips to use Apple Numbers on Mac effectively

Unsure about how to begin with Apple Numbers on a Mac? Numbers is a useful spreadsheet programme that comes with macOS and is suitable for both personal and professional use. However, there are additional benefits to using Numbers, which may turn it into one of your go-to apps of choice.

We’ll go over a few hints and tricks for using Apple Numbers on a Mac. Open Numbers and follow along from applying conditional highlighting to starting with a template!

1. How to start with a template in Numbers

You can start with a template to give your Numbers spreadsheet a head start. For typical jobs, there is a respectable range of personal, corporate, and educational templates.

  1. Launch the Numbers app on your Mac and select New Document.
    If you already have the app open, go to File in the menu bar and choose New.
  2. On the following screen, select a category using the navigation on the left or select All Templates to view them all. Everything from a household budget to a class calendar to a to-do list can be made.
  3. When you see the one you want, select it and click Create at the bottom right.

    Click all templates, tap create or select a blank template in numbers app

Once the template opens, simply add your own data. You can also make edits to the template formatting to tailor it to your needs.

2. How to sort data in Numbers

Manual spreadsheet manipulation can be time-consuming and error-prone when it involves a large amount of data. Instead, you can utilise your sheet’s sort feature to organise the data.

  1. Select the sheet you want to sort, click the Organize button at the top right corner, and choose the Sort tab.
  2. If you only want to sort particular data, select those rows and then pick Sort Selected Rows in the top drop-down box in the sidebar. Otherwise, you can choose Sort Entire Table.
  3. In the Sort by section, pick the column you want to sort by in the drop-down box. Beneath, you can then choose Ascending or Descending order.
  4. If you’d like to sort by another column, choose it along with the order below the first sort settings you pick.

    Click organize, decide the type of sorting, select the filter method, add column in numbers
  5. You should see your data automatically sorted, but if you continue to add more columns to sort by, click Sort Now at the top of the sidebar.

    Click sort now in numbers on mac

You might want to add a link to another sheet or a simple way to get to a website. A link to a sheet, email address, website, or phone number can be added in Numbers. Then, by just clicking the link, you can open the spreadsheet, create an email, go to the website, or dial a number.

  1. Select the content within the cell you want to link by double-clicking the text or dragging your cursor through it. If you only select the cell, you’ll notice that the link options will be
  2. Go to Format in the menu bar, move your cursor to Add Link, and choose an option from the pop-out menu. unavailable.

    Select the text, click format, add link, and select an option in numbers 
  3. When the small window appears, add the information for the link. For example, enter the URL for a web page or number for a phone call. You can also adjust the Display text if necessary.
  4. Use the button on the bottom right per the type of link you select to apply the hyperlink to the content.

    Fill the necessary details in the display menu in numbers

To make changes to the link or remove it later, select Format in the menu bar and pick Edit Link or Remove Link.

4. How to create a chart in Numbers

Graphs and charts are excellent visual representations of data. They make it possible for you to quickly identify highs and lows, trends, or patterns. You have the option of 2D, 3D, or interactive charts in Numbers.

  1. Select the data you want to include in the chart.
  2. Either click the Chart button in the toolbar or Insert in the menu bar and move to Chart.
  3. You’ll see all of the chart types you can pick from including bar, column, pie, scatter, and more. Choose the type and you’ll see the chart pop right into your sheet.

    Select charts, and choose a theme of your preference in numbers
  4. When you edit the data in your sheet, your chart automatically updates. 
  5. To customize the appearance, select the chart and click Format on the top right. You can then choose a different color scheme, adjust the axes, add data labels, and more.
  6. To change the data you want to include, select the chart and click Edit Data References at the bottom of the chart.

    Click format, make changes, edit preferences in numbers 

5. How to perform simple calculations in Numbers

Calculations are probably one of the most frequent activities you’ll carry out in your Numbers sheet. Fortunately, it only takes a few clicks to add, average, or extract the most information possible from a collection of data.

  1. Go to the cell where you want the results of the calculation.
  2. Either select Insert in the toolbar or use Insert in the menu bar to choose Formula.
  3. Then, pick the calculation you want to use.

    Select a cell, click insert, choose a formula in numbers

If you choose the bottom cell or the far-right cell to perform the calculation, you’ll notice Numbers employ the values in the column or row, respectively.

Double-click the cell to reveal the formula bar and adjust the calculation’s formula. After making your changes, use the green checkmark to save it.

Monitor the formula of the cell in numbers

View calculations at a glance

One of these computations can be something you wish to use but not necessarily add to your document. Instead, you can put one or all of them on show at the window’s bottom.

  1. Select a group of cells containing values in your sheet. Then, click the gear button that displays in the bottom right corner of the window.
  2. Choose the calculations you want to display which places a checkmark next to each one.

    Select the rows/columns, click the gear icon, select the prompt in numbers
  3. Then, when you select one or more cells in the sheet, you’ll see the calculation(s) at the bottom with nothing more than a glance.

    Access the calculation aspects in numbers

6. How to insert formulas in Numbers

The above equations employ formulas to do the straightforward calculations. By entering complex formulas and making use of a number of functions, Numbers allows you to move beyond the fundamentals.

We won’t go into great detail about formulae and functions in Numbers because that would require a very long article.

  1. To enter a formula, type the equal sign (=) in the cell to display the formula bar.
  2. Enter the desired formula in the formula bar. You’ll see suggestions at the bottom if your formula begins with a function. If you select one, the formula bar will provide prompts to assist you in accurately completing the formula. Simply substitute your data for the prompts.
  3. Additionally, you can open the Format sidebar to get more help with functions. You can search for one, get details on its uses, and click Insert Function to place it in your formula.

    Enter = in cell, and select a function in numbers
  4. When you finish entering the formula, press the checkmark in green to apply it and obtain your result.

    Check when the formula is set to your preferences in numbers

Tip: If you want a quick view of the formula, select the cell, and you’ll see the formula displayed at the bottom of the window.

Formula and function examples

Let’s examine a few such formulas that utilise Numbers functions.

You can return a result for a true or false condition using the IF function. If cell B2’s value is more than 20,000, for instance, return Yes; otherwise, return No. Here is the calculation you would use and how it would show up in the bottom bar:

Select a cell and follow a condition in numbers


Using the CONCAT function, you can combine text from different cells. For instance, you can join the first name in cell B2 and the last name in cell C2 with the result in cell D2. You can also include a space (within quotes) between the names. Here’s the formula and how it looks in the bar at the bottom:

Monitor the command with respective command in numbers

7. How to apply cell formatting in Numbers

Depending on the type of data you enter in Numbers, you may want or need to format it as such.

For instance, you might want numbers formatted as currency, a percentage, or a date. While Numbers offers an Automatic formatting option, you can choose and customize particular data types.

  1. Select the cell or range of data and click Format to open the sidebar.
  2. Go to the Cell tab and open the Data Format drop-down box to pick the data type.

    Select the table, move to cell folder, select a format in numbers
  3. Optionally, you can adjust the additional formatting that displays beneath the type. For example, if you choose Currency, you can choose the currency type, change the decimal places, and include a thousand separator.

    Adjust additional formatting style in numbers

8. How to use interactive formatting in Numbers

Along with formatting the data, you can format a cell with an interactive item like a checkbox or slider. This gives you a quick and easy way to mark off tasks, choose values, or add a rating.

  1. Select the cell or range and click Format to open the sidebar.
  2. Go to the Cell tab and open the Data Format drop-down box to pick one of these interactive formatting types at the bottom of the list.

    Select format, cell and choose a format in numbers
    • Checkbox: Click the box to place a checkmark in it. When checked, the value is True and when unchecked, the value is False.
    • Star rating: Select a dot to mark that number of stars for a rating system. You can choose from zero to five stars.
    • Slider: Use a vertical slider to select a value. After you choose Slider in the drop-down box, add the minimum, maximum, and increments. You can also pick a specific data format such as number, currency, or percentage.
    • Stepper: A Stepper works like a Slider except you use arrows to increase or decrease the value.
    • Pop-up menu: Create your own pop-up menu by adding the items in the sidebar. Then, select the arrow to the right to open the pop-up menu and pick an item.

9. How to use autofill in Numbers

Autofill is a fantastic feature that can be a true time saver. With it, you can drag from one or more cells to fill additional cells with the same value, a pattern, or a formula. 

The best way to explain how to use autofill is with a few examples.

Autofill the same value

Here, we want to copy the same value down to the last three cells in the column. When you select the cell, hover your cursor over it and you’ll see a yellow dot display. Drag that dot downward and release to fill the cells with the same value.

Autofill a pattern

Next, we want to list the months of the year. Rather than typing them all manually, you can select the cell containing “January” and drag the yellow dot down to fill in the remaining months.

Autofill a formula

When you enter a formula or calculation into a cell that you want to use in another, you can copy and paste the formula with autofill. Numbers automatically updates the cell references so that they apply to the correct cells.

Here, we have our total for Q1. We drag the cell with that SUM formula to the cells across the row to obtain the totals for the remaining quarters.

10. How to apply conditional highlighting in Numbers

With conditional highlighting, you can format your data automatically when it meets certain conditions that you set up. As examples, you can make numbers less than another number a certain font color or dates after a specific date have a cell fill color.

  1. Select the cells you want to apply the formatting to and click Format to open the sidebar.
  2. Go to the Cell tab and pick Conditional Highlighting.

    Click cell, conditional highlight in numbers
  3. At the top, click Add a Rule. Choose the rule type on the left of the pop-up box.
    You can pick Number, Date, Text, Duration, or Cell.
  4. You’ll then see the available conditions for that cell type to the right. Pick an option.

    Click add a rule and add prompts in numbers
  5. Then, complete the remaining details for the rule in the sidebar including any additional variables and the formatting you want to apply.
  6. Click Done when you finish.

    Once the rules are set click done in numbers
  7. To view, edit, or remove a conditional highlighting rule, reopen the Format sidebar and pick Show Highlighting Rules on the Cell tab.

Let’s look at an example:

Here, we’ll format numbers that equal 10 in red font. Start by choosing Number and Equal To.

Then, add the value “10” and choose Red Text in the format drop-down list.

Now, whenever a value in our dataset is 10, we’ll see the red font pop, making it easy to spot.

Do more with Numbers on Mac

If you’re a Mac user and want to do more with Apple Numbers, these tips should help you get started. And if you have tips of your own you’d like to share or would like to see us cover something specific for Apple Numbers, let us know! 


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