One of the most common complaints I hear from other actuaries about the iPad is that it doesn’t do spreadsheets well. Some say it’s a weakness that will ultimately relegate the iPad to the toy pile. Here are a non-prime number of thoughts from an actuary (me) who makes a living on spreadsheets:


I’m not sure the iPad ever needs to be a spreadsheet tool to be successful. I see spreadsheet work as a variant of programming. It’s truck work.

The iPad solves many, many non-spreadsheet problems for me. In fact, if all the iPad did was let me read and annotate PDF documents, that would be enough. It doesn’t have to do everything to keep a place in my workflow.


I’m not sure one should do serious spreadsheet work on a touch interface. “Office” applications like Excel were never designed with touch in mind. I think it would be maddening to use the Microsoft ribbon with a finger tip.

Use a stylus instead? Really? I’ve tried Windows Tablet PCs. Imagine a painter with a broken arm and three fingers on his good hand duct taped. That’s the tablet PC experience.


The fact that there aren’t great Excel tools on the iPad in 2011 isn’t an inherent weakness of the iPad or a failure on Apple’s part. It’s a consequence of Microsoft’s decision not to develop Microsoft Office apps for the iPad.

No one is stopping Microsoft from making an iOS Excel app but Microsoft. In fact, Microsoft could develop apps for Word, PowerPoint, Access, and more—if they wanted to. They don’t. And the world is moving on.


The spreadsheet used to be my everything tool. From sophisticated financial modeling to text manipulation to list-keeping to word processing (seriously) to ad hoc arithmetic.

Apps are replacing the need to use spreadsheets for everything. Today, I only use spreadsheets when I really need the power of a spreadsheets. Apps are serving niche uses in ways that conventional software development (and distribution) never could have.