Developer: Mariner Software Inc.
Price: $9.99
Version Reviewed: 1.1

iPhone Integration Rating: ★★★★☆
User Interface Rating: ★★★★☆
Performance Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆

img_00109So you’ve purchased Mariner Calc and you’d like to create a spreadsheet on your iPhone. Just open the application, click on the folder icon and press the plus icon. The button beside the folder icon will then show you how the app handles sheets. Sheets are displayed in the same way as mobile Safari’s tab interface. Adding and deleting sheets works in the same way. If you’re not creating your document within the application simply turn on sharing, send your browser to the supplied network address, select and upload the file that you want.

Once your document has loaded, there are a lot of powerful features available for editing. At the bottom of the screen there are options for number formatting (such as accounting, currency, dates, etc.), font styles, and a fairly comprehensive set of functions (145, from basic to statistics, trigonometry, address lookups, logic, etc.). Column width, row height, labels, grids are also editable, as well as quick navigation to a specific cell, zooming to a selection, and the option to split a worksheet. Lastly, there’s a section for cut, copy, paste, clear, undo, redo, insert and delete. All of these sections work really well and they’re organized in a way that will quickly become familiar to veteran spreadsheet users.

Actual navigation and selection of particular cells or groups of cells works well. Those actions are well separated from standard gestures like pinch and work in an equally natural way. I was fairly impressed with Mariner Calc’s overall operation at this point and continued to be impressed as I uploaded different documents. Formatting was generally very faithful to the originals.

While the sheets I used were not extremely complex, there were some issues that arose. Dates in a simple timesheet displayed correctly, but the data in the formula bar displayed as a five digit number. I wanted to see if this would be corrected when I saved and transferred it back to the desktop. In doing this, I found a couple of other issues.

img_000511First of all, the only easily apparent way to save your document is to load another document. This seems to be counter intuitive and, honestly, a bad idea with, what is often, crucial data. There should be a way to save from the main editing screen. Apparently exiting the program also saves. This doesn’t really appeal to me, knowing the exiting programs from the iPhone is not always a clean affair.

The second issue came when I tried to transfer the files back to my desktop. Two of the four excel files that I used for testing refused to transfer. I re-attempted transfers on two different computers running Leopard and one running Vista, tried with several different browsers, and on two different wi-fi networks. Inability to transfer important files, even intermittently, is really unacceptable.

The last thing that I’d comment on is that business applications seem to have a tendency toward using office document formats for tutorials. It’s almost always a bad idea. In this case, it works for learning basic gestures, but nowhere else. Formatting something for the iPhone’s screen, whether it’s a slide show or something interactive, would seem like a much better practice.

Mariner Calc is a very promising application that has both minor and major issues that keep it from being recommended. There is so much that is done right that it makes these issues seem that much more unfortunate. With the dynamics of the App Store, at this price point, execution on vital functions needs to be flawless. If these things can be resolved, I believe that Mariner Calc will make a lot of people very happy in the future.

Posted in: Business, iPhone Apps and Games, Reviews

Tagged with: , , , , ,