Google Sheets vs Excel: Which do you prefer?
For the last several decades, Microsoft Excel has reigned supreme as the people’s spreadsheet program of choice.
While there have always been other spreadsheet options out there, no program has successfully competed with Excel—until the release of Google Sheets. Google has a significant competitive advantage over other spreadsheet software due to its collaboration features, mobile compatibility, and its ability to connect with a plethora of services.
Here at Kloudio, we use both Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets. (You’ll hear from both sides throughout this article.)
We wrote this guide to help you—whether you’re a casual or serious spreadsheet user—identify the right solution for your specific needs. To do this, we’ll compare the advantages and disadvantages of these two popular spreadsheet solutions.
Google Sheets vs. Excel
Both Excel and Sheets are powerful, capable of handling mathematical calculations, and compatible with their respective program suites (Microsoft Office and Google). For basic spreadsheet use, both can get the job done.
But there’s much more that separates the two programs—which is why this dichotomy is considered a spreadsheet “war.”
In this section, we’ll examine the elements of Excel and Sheets and how they compare or contrast. Let’s see what side you end up on.
1. Data Functions
Excel and Sheets share similar data functionality. Both offer formulas from SUM to VLOOKUP in addition to functions like changing formatting, adding diagrams, freezing rows, and other methods of manipulating data.
COO Karen Rubin opts for Sheets: “Their pivot function has come a long way, and once you get over it being a different UX than Excel, it’s just as good. The charting functions are better, and the integration with Google Slides is awesome: If you copy and paste a chart into your deck, you can simply click Update to reflect new data in your presentation. Add to that the collaboration and online access from everywhere, and it’s much easier to use in a modern workplace.”
While Google Sheets does allow you to perform elaborate calculations, store information, and generate coding, the spreadsheet program is dwarfed by the complex functions offered by Microsoft Excel.
Excel provides advanced graphs paired with the flexibility to create your own program extensions called macros, both of which are yet to be seen in Google Sheets.
2. Data Performance
Google is cloud-based, whereas Excel is locally installed on a user’s computer (although the latest release of Office 365 is cloud-based). This architectural difference leads to a performance gap between the two programs.
Since Excel lives on your desktop, it’s faster and able to handle hundreds of thousands of records at ease. It can process over 17,000,000,000 billion cells of data.
VP of Product Ankush Rustagi is team Excel: “Anyone who has cut their teeth on 250K rows with 15 columns knows that Sheets is child’s play. The overall winner for core spreadsheet usage is Excel, especially considering the speed of running calculations off your local machine vs. the lag in Sheets when manipulating large data sets. Plus, the cell limitation in Sheets—BYE, FELICIA.”
On the other hand, Google Sheets is browser-based and requires internet access to function (unless you’ve enabled your document to work offline), so it can slow down with significant data. Sheets can process only 5,000,000 cells.
3. Team Collaboration
Collaboration is where Google Sheets wins by a long shot. Because Sheets is cloud-based, users can share documents with others, who can then view and edit it in real-time. You can even communicate via a chat box in the side bar. This sole (yet powerful) feature vastly improves productivity for teams who rely on frequent document sharing and updates.
VP of Marketing Josh Gleason chooses Sheets: “While I have to believe Excel still is a more powerful tool, that doesn’t matter to me. Most of my uses are lightweight, and the ability to comment and chart are two areas where Sheets Excels. See what I did there? I’ll be here all week.”
On the other hand, to share and collaborate on Excel documents, one must save and email the file to others. In past years, Office 365 has introduced a cloud-based collaboration feature, but it requires OneDrive to work.
The user-friendliness of an application is subjective to, well, what each user finds “friendly.” Objectively, however, Sheets has been ranked as a friendlier spreadsheet tool given its simplicity and minimal design.
At times, the vast functionality of Excel has been described as overwhelming or too busy. (Yet, for the folks who need this functionality, they find this interface friendlier. See what I mean by subjective?)
Sheets also wins in this category with its auto-saving feature, through which the program saves your work on regular intervals. Excel offers this feature in its latest version, but if you’re working in an older model, you’ll have to remember to manually save or tap the CTRL + S keystroke.
5. Application Add-Ons
Both Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets allow users to download free and paid applications to their respective programs.
As of today, Excel offers over 280 add-ins via the Office 365 Store. These fall into categories such as CRM, data analytics, education, financial management, sales and marketing, and more. In comparison, Google Sheets overs just shy of 250 add-ons in categories of business tools, education, productivity, social and communication, and more.
These add-ons prove extremely useful in extending the standard functionality of your spreadsheet—not to mention fueling the developer economy.
For example, using the Kloudio add-in or add-on, you can seamlessly connect Excel or Sheets with your corporate database, configure ad-hoc reports, and schedule uploads within minutes—all without any IT assistance.
Software engineer Jagannath Saragadam prefers Sheets: “The integration is just seamless. I’m more tied up to the Google ecosystem, so it’s easy. There is cloud version of Excel as well, but it’s all in the ecosystem. Although my use case is very simple—comments, assign to, linking, etc. P.S: Did you know, to open a new Sheet, you can type in sheets.new in the browser?”
Thousands of users worldwide have become self-sufficient in their data manipulation, reporting, and uploading with add-ons or add-ins. One can even invoke any external REST API such as Google Translate or LinkedIn Candidate Search all from within Excel or Sheets.
For many companies, price is often the deal-maker or deal-breaker. The same goes for Google Sheets vs. Excel.
Google Sheets is free for individuals and is bundled with Google Apps for Work for a price of $6 per user per month.
|Google Sheets||Microsoft Excel|
|5 million||17 billion|
|Ideal for low-volume data (less than 400,000 cells)||Ideal all volumes of data, especially high-volume|
Analytics Support/ Functions
|Ideal for web-based data analysis such as GOOGLE TRANSLATE GOOGLE FINANCE, IMPORTHTML||Comprehensive and includes a wide array of functions for all possible analysis tasks|
|Yes||Yes, but requires OneDrive|
|Add-ons||250+, mostly for business tools and productivity||280+, mostly for financial management and analysis|
|Free for individuals and $6 per user per month for business users||Starts at $5 per user per month|
|Cloud Drive||Google Drive||OneDrive|
Over to You
So, what camp are you in: Google Sheets vs. Excel? Ultimately, only you can decide what program works for your particular needs.
As a rule of thumb, larger companies that need more extensive analytical data, security, code creation, and tools tend to go with Excel. Alternatively, those who want a simple spreadsheet to track expenses or work collaboratively typically go with Google Sheets (often due to the free price tag).
Here at Kloudio, we’re a house divided. Thankfully, whether you work in Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel, Kloudio helps non-technical users gain insights by building sophisticated reports combining different data sources.
We take care of the data so you can make the decisions.