Keeping track of all of your data and lists can be difficult and time-consuming. Whether you need to report thousands of statistics or just a simple personal finance spreadsheet, choosing the best spreadsheet software is critical, and it usually comes down to Excel vs Google Sheets.
Both software tools are excellent choices for organizing your data into neat spreadsheets. So, we're here to assist you in determining which spreadsheet tool is truly the best!
In terms of formulas and calculations, the similarities of Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets are very obvious and many of their characteristics are also similar. At the very core, both have data in the form of a table, or rows and columns.
The main difference between Excel and Google Sheets is collaboration. The latter allows the owner to share links with other users, granting them permission to read or edit the sheet at the same time. In contrast, only one person can edit a file at a time in Excel.
For most professionals, it is not a question of one over the other but rather which tool to use for which particular task. Every once in a while you will find yourself making a decision about which spreadsheet you are going to use because both have their pros and cons.
In this Excel vs Sheets guide, we have done the full homework for you. You will be completely familiar with both tools' advantages and disadvantages and will be able to decide which to use in any given situation.
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Let's compare both Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets in order to understand some basic differences between them.
This was just a brief overview of some basic features. Now let us dive deeper and look at key areas that set these two great tools apart.
1. Accessibility and Cost
A key deciding factor between Google Sheets and Microsoft Excel is that Google Sheets is focused on online collaboration, whereas Microsoft Excel is mostly focused on offline work.
A basic version of Excel, Excel Online is available without a subscription. If you have a Hotmail, Live, or Outlook email account, or even an Xbox account, you already have access to the web versions of all Microsoft applications.
The deciding factor could be money. With a Google account, you can use Google Sheets for free. Excel Online is also available for free with a Microsoft account but you have to purchase or subscribe for its feature-rich desktop version.
Winner - Excel: Even though Excel is not completely free like Google Sheets, the dependability of a desktop app is invaluable! It's reassuring to know that you can access your files regardless of your internet connection.
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Excel can be intimidating to new users. Hundreds of commands spread across multiple ribbons and tabs, as well as hundreds of formulas, complex data analysis tools, and visualization features.
Any Google Sheets vs Excel comparison would be incomplete without mentioning how user-friendly these applications are. Excel can be intimidating and it takes a lot to process!
Excel tutorials are among the most popular on YouTube for a reason. It's a massive, complex program that can take years to truly master.
The layout and simplified toolbar system of Google Sheets is much easier on the eyes and for comprehension. Although Google Sheets does not provide as much functionality, it appears to be less intimidating, especially for beginners.
For reference, just look at the command bars for both spreadsheets below:
Now let’s look at Sheets…
Winner - Sheets: Google Sheets because it has most of the functionality many people need for their day-to-day spreadsheet requirements and it is less intimidating. In the event, however, that you are required to process complex analytics then you will have to jump into Excel.
3. Features and functionality
At the end of the day, the application you use must be capable of the task. Your preference here will be heavily influenced by the type of work you do.
The backbones of any spreadsheet application are its functions and formulas. They assist us in performing simple to complex calculations, automating tasks and processes, as well as organizing, sorting, and analyzing data.
Excel has over 450 functions and formulas, and new ones are added on a regular basis. Access to the best and most comprehensive library of these is priceless.
MS Excel has a massive library of formulas
Google sheets might not have as huge a library as Excel but interestingly enough it has some formulas that are very unique to it only. Sheets has a section dedicated to Google functions, such as GOOGLEFINANCE, GOOGLETRANSLATE, ARRAYFORMULA, and SPARKLINE which are all very unique tools.
If you prefer analyzing large datasets, you will quickly become frustrated with Google Sheets due to its cloud-based nature. Large datasets are a challenge for cloud-based apps.
Excel, on the other hand, maybe overkill if you are a casual Excel user who works with smaller spreadsheets. If all you need to do is a couple of SUM calculations and some formatting, Google Sheets will suffice.
When it comes to data visualization, Google Sheets is limited. Excel, on the other hand, has a plethora of charts ranging from the basic column, bar, and line charts to waterfall, sunburst, and stock charts.
Excel is your best friend if you want to create visual dashboards and tell the story of your data.
Excel includes a robust set of Business Intelligence Tools, such as Power Pivot and Power Query. These powerful utilities boost data analysis.
There are no equivalent utilities in Google Sheets, and even if there were, a cloud-based app's processing power would struggle to handle and process thousands of rows of data. Excel becomes extremely robust thanks to Power Query.
PivotTables will be very familiar to you if you analyze data. It took some time for Google Sheets to catch up to Excel in terms of PivotTable functionality.
One advantage Google Sheets has over its rival is that PivotTables automatically update when new data is added to the source. You must remember to press the Refresh button in Excel.
Format as Table
The ability to format a range of data as a table is a powerful and useful feature in Excel. To make this idea easier to comprehend, tables can be named and referred to in formulas.
The ability of tables in Excel to auto-expand to accommodate new data is, however, their single best use. With a single click, charts and pivot tables that use table data can be updated to include the new rows.
Google Sheets automatically updates PivotTables, but there is no equivalent feature for formatting data as a table.
The GoTo Special feature in Excel allows you to highlight specific cells in a worksheet based on their contents. Highlight blank cells, cells with formulas, cells with constants, and even cells with conditional formatting or errors.
This is an excellent tool for troubleshooting and completing tasks quickly. This feature is not available in Google Sheets. You can only jump to a specific cell reference.
Winner - Excel: What can excel do that google sheets can't? More formulas, more features, faster processing, and improved data visualization all set Excel apart from Sheets.
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Most collaborative workplaces already use Google Sheets, and because it is entirely online, spreadsheets can be easily shared.
If Google Sheets' web-based nature is a disadvantage in terms of features and functionalities, it is a huge advantage in terms of collaboration. The level of collaboration that Google Sheets allows is far superior to that of Excel.
While Excel has made progress in enabling collaboration and making it easier to use, it is still not as smooth (or frictionless) as Google Sheets.
If you need to collaborate with someone using Excel, for example, these files must be saved on OneDrive or SharePoint.
While these tools are used by large enterprise clients, the majority of people are familiar with Google Drive, which is where you save your Google sheets.
Collaboration in Google Sheets is seamless, as multiple people can edit the same sheet from different devices (be it a desktop, laptop, tablet, or mobile).
You don't even need to worry about saving your Google Sheets document because it is saved in real time. This is also available in Excel in Microsoft 365, but it is not available in previous versions.
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Winner - Sheets: Overall, Google Sheets has an advantage when it comes to collaboration.
While VBA is much easier to learn and use, it is only available in Microsoft applications such as Excel, Word, and PowerPoint.
So, if you only need to automate using these applications, VBA is ideal. However, if you want to automate tasks that require interaction with other applications (such as databases and web applications), VBA will be limited.
5. Keyboard Shortcuts
When using Google Sheets in a Chrome tab or any other browser, such as Firefox or Brave, you can only use Google Sheets-specific keyboard shortcuts. They cannot have a keyboard shortcut that interferes with the browser or other popular web applications, limiting their options.
Excel, on the other hand, does not have such limitations. Excel also has a plethora of keyboard shortcuts that are extremely useful, which Google Sheets completely lacks. In Google Sheets, for example, there is no keyboard shortcut for pasting data as values or applying or removing filters.
So, if you're switching from Excel to Spreadsheet and are used to keyboard shortcuts, prepare to be frustrated a bit.
Winner - Excel: Because we are lazy and prefer to have everything at our fingertips. 😁 When it comes to keyboard shortcuts, Excel is the clear winner. This is one of the cases where having a standalone application is advantageous.
How to quickly choose between Excel or Sheets for a project
Was this information useful or did you get overwhelmed? This brilliant decision flowchart by Spreadsheetpoint is the ideal tool if you want to quickly take a call on which spreadsheet tool to use for any given project.
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There is no clear winner between Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets when you want to compare them side by side. It is critical to consider the context in which you will use the application when selecting it.
To summarize, both tools are excellent for their respective purposes. Excel is a more powerful tool that handles large amounts of data and is feature-rich. You also pay for this in terms of $$$. Google is free, light, great for collaboration, and user-friendly but it cannot handle very large amounts of data.
This guide has shown you the pros and cons of Google Sheets vs Excel and given you a good idea of which tool to use under which conditions.
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Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between Excel and sheets?
Both have data in the form of a table, or rows and columns; the main difference between Excel and Google Sheets is that the latter allows the owner to share links with other users, granting them permission to read or edit the sheet at the same time.
What can Excel do that Google Sheets can’t?
Excel, unlike Google Sheets, can import data from a variety of external sources, such as databases, text files, Excel files, and cloud services. Excel's Power Query add-in, in particular, combines data import with limitless options for shaping and preparing data for analysis.
Why Google Sheets is better than Excel?
Both Google Sheets and Google Docs are excellent in terms of core functionality. Excel is a better application if your business requires serious calculations. Google Sheets is the best option if you want to collaborate on your spreadsheet.