By: Kim Cavanaugh
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Working with Numbers
At the top of this article I indicated that Tables is not a spreadsheet, but it does in fact contain most of the common numerical operators that the average person needs when working with tables of information.
I particularly like the ability to quickly add a summary row, an option available from the Table view of the toolbar. This automatic feature inserts a row at the bottom of the table. Once that row is in place you can click the small equal sign (=) that appears on the right side of any cell in the row and quickly apply the calculation you need.
Figure 6: You can perform basic operations to a column of data just by clicking the button on the right side of a cell
More advanced numerical functions are available when you type an equal sign into a cell. When you do so your cursor turns to a function symbol and you can use the built-in formulas to do some advanced mathematical operations.
As a standalone tool for keeping information organized into tables, Acrobat.com Tables is a nifty little service, with some excellent user interface touches that make it great fun to use. But the real power of this application—like the other services at Acrobat.com—is for sharing the workload with others. Just as it's common to design and develop a presentation with others in collaboration as you can do with Presentations, people frequently need to be able to share basic organized information that can be put into a table.
When you click the Share button in the lower left-hand corner of the screen a window appears where you enter the e-mail address of the person you wish to share your table with and allows you to set their rights to the document.
Figure 7: You can assign sharing permissions to multiple people and assign them different roles
When you click Next you'll even be able to enter a short message to your co-workers. Acrobat.com will then send them a message letting them know that you've shared a document with them and the URL where it can be viewed.
One of the really nice things about both Tables and Presentations is how documents can be shared simultaneously. Edits are transmitted from one individual's computer back to the Acrobat.com service where they are relayed to everyone viewing the document almost instantly. This real-time collaboration method does away with the need to manually save or check-in a document before someone else makes edits to it. Since everything happens live before your eyes (you can even see when someone is editing a particular element or table cell) and since every action taken is auto-saved it's nearly impossible to over-write someone else's work. Compared to Google documents, where documents need to be manually saved or refreshed, this is a very useful feature that may take a little getting used to. Still, with live changes and the easily located History listing at the bottom of the page (where a clock icon now replaces the amusing use of Venus de Milo to represent history that was present before) it won't take long to appreciate how much easier it is to collaborate and edit in this environment.
As with Presentations, there are some holes in the Tables service that I'm hoping will be addressed in future versions. For me, the most useful feature still missing is the ability to embed a document that is updated whenever the source file is changed. Once that feature appears and a little more polish is applied to issues such as speed (I found there to be a lag at times when I entered information into a table), Tables is likely to join the other applications at Acrobat.com that are available for free, or with greater capacity for a monthly charge. As it stands today, Tables is a nice little application that you might find useful right out of its beta box. And since it's free to try all you need to apply is a little time in getting used to the interface. Like me you'll likely find it Tables to feature a great user interface that has all the tools I need from the more powerful spreadsheet programs I frequently use.