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Google Sheets vs Excel: Which is Right For You in 2021?

Google sheets vs excel featured image
Google Sheets and Excel are both extremely popular, but how do you know which is right for you? Image credit: Isaac Smith

A battle between superheroes? Sort of. The good news is that users can never go wrong when considering Google Sheets vs Excel. Both softwares are credited with making people’s lives easier when it comes to complex equations and databases.

Excel and Sheets have most of the same core features. However, they do have differences that could potentially be the key selling points for your business.

The comparison between both programs started when Google began re-shaping the idea of spreadSheets as users knew and liked them.

After years and years of businesses getting accustomed to Excel, Google presented an interesting alternative. This new program emphasised collaboration, sharing, easy access, and ease-of-use.

But how do you decide which is the right tool for you?

What is the Difference Between Google Sheets and Excel?

Google introduced Sheets in the market with the goal of creating the easiest, most convenient, and modern spreadsheet service there is. What helped in validating Google’s claims very quickly was that Sheets seemed to provide everything Microsoft Excel lacked.

Although Excel has been around longer, Google Sheets made a name for itself with its editing and sharing features. As time passed, Excel and Sheets began to offer similar features which made it difficult for users to pick sides.

The race between the two tools remains heated because each one of them is renowned for a specific feature.

This thorough guide will help users select between both software based on each individual or business’s needs. Excel and Sheets will stay head-to-head for quite a long time, but still, their minor differences could potentially be the deciding factors for various users.

Common Features of Excel and Google Sheets

Before delving into the pros and cons of each software, this comparative list shows the shared features between them:

  • Compatibility (Android, iOS, Windows and Mac OS X),
  • Autofill options,
  • Helpful templates,
  • Web-based versions,
  • Auto-saving capability,
  • Collaboration.
Google sheets vs excel google sheets logo
Google Sheets has taken a large chunk of the market over the last decade. Image credit: Google

Benefits of Google Sheets

Some people use Sheets just because it’s part of the Google Suite. It also has a reputation for being extremely easy to use compared to its counterpart Excel. This might require looking at how-to guides or video tutorials to get a good understanding of it.

Google Sheets was designed for sharing. Moreover, it enables amazing collaboration between individuals. It is great for team communication as it allows numerous users to access the document and edit at once.

Sheets also allows live chat between users. Say goodbye to long email threads!

In addition to its unmatched user-friendliness, Sheets integrates other Google applications such as Google Maps, Translate, and Google Drive.

Even if a spreadsheet is missing or needs edited, Sheets enables quick installations. One of the major perks of using Sheets is that it’s feasible to access from any computer via Google Drive.

Sheets, just as other Google platforms, automatically saves and generates revisions to allow easy tracking of work. As mentioned, Sheets is compatible with Android, iOS, Windows and Mac OS X.

Google Sheets became popular among students, freelancers, and rising start-ups as it provides all the basic requirements in a spreadsheet app free-of-cost!

So, over time, people started shifting to Google Sheets to save money and time. They were not disappointed.

Downsides of Google Sheets

However, there are many reasons why many prefer Excel over Sheets.

The fact that Google Sheets can’t handle a lot of data is a great disadvantage to many. Take a look at what else you’d be missing out on.

  • More data, less responsiveness. Google Sheets isn’t designed to work well with a lot of data and numbers. There comes a point when the more data you add into the spreadsheet, the slower it becomes and the more it lags. This can be a problem for many professionals who need to visualize large amounts of data.
  • Limited data visualisation. When it comes to data visualisation, the features available on Google Sheets may not satisfy professional needs. There are less customizable features and tools. You are definitely more restricted in customizing visuals, data, charts and graphs on Google Sheets. For professional presentations you need this feature to alter your presentation to fit your purpose.
  • Limited formulas and functions. A lot like the limited data visualization, you can also do little when it comes to formulas and functions. If you’re familiar with formulas on Excel and would like to insert them on Google Sheets, you can sometimes do it. However, it is not the same as it would be done on Excel.

Benefits of Microsoft Excel

Excel is an extremely powerful platform, but with that power comes a great price. Not only is Excel much more complicated to manage than Google Sheets, but it could require a bit of practice and study to master.

Some people even go through classes to learn the tips and tricks of this mighty app.

What truly signifies MS Excel is its variety of customisation, formulas, and equations, and visualisation options. The app is extremely strong, built for handling large amounts of data. Accountants appreciate how Excel can pretty much do anything, including automating most of their work.

Furthermore, the MS app can handle heavy-duty data, without breaking a sweat. It spares users the constant crashes and lags they might face if they try to work on Google Sheets.

Avid users are sticking with Excel because of its hacking shortcuts and automated features which Google started to pick up on only recently.

Excel started to keep up with demanded adjustments by launching an online version, but still, this version does not perform as consistently as the native app nor does it transform all the work from the desktop version to the cloud.

Downsides of Excel

On the other hand, Excel is not all perks and advantages. Excel also has some negative sides that we need to keep in mind.

  • No clear revision history. On Excel, you can access your revision history, however it’s not as simple as how you would on Google Sheets. Also, once you’ve accessed it, it is not easy to figure out when and who did what.
  • It’s not easy to use. Excel has many features, and to take full advantage of them you need to be very familiar with all the tips and tricks. Excel is known to be difficult to use, and some can not master it on their own. Taking courses and classes on how to use Excel properly is very common amongst businesses and companies.
  • Collaboration can be confusing. Every now and then, Microsoft introduces a new and updated version of Excel. These updates are great, however it becomes a hassle when it comes to collaboration. Some features are only available on the updated version, so they can not be accessed on the older version and vice versa. This slows down the collaboration process as you wait for everyone to download the desired version.
  • Cannot access from computers other than your own. As mentioned earlier, you do not need the internet to access your Excel document. However, this means that it is not automatically saved on the cloud. As a result, you can only access your work from your own laptop or desktop. For confidential data, this can be advantageous. But it can be problematic when trying to access your work anywhere at any time.
  • It ain’t cheap! The price for Microsoft Excel is $109.99 for one PC. Some view it as a great investment for the long run. However, if you’re looking for the basic uses of Excel this is a waste of your money.

Google Sheets 101: Personal And Business Use

Google charges no installations or fees to use Sheets.

On the contrary, it offers a wide array of facilities for Google users; sharing, online storages, real-time editing and chat, and lastly, offline access. Users just need to connect to the internet, create a Google account, and connect via a web browser.

Plus, it is the perfect option for business students, rising start-ups, young entrepreneurs, or even individuals working with a tight budget.

Getting started with Sheets:

  • Step one – create a basic spreadsheet after logging in with a Google account.
  • Step two – fill in the file, create formulas, and perform necessary calculations. Utilise the integrated Google features and finish off with formatting, improving visualisation and customisation as needed.
  • Step three – download the file if needed or save it on Google Drive under the designated Google account for easy access anytime through various devices.
  • Step four – collaborate on the sheet with peers through sharing the spreadsheet link or simply adding the team by sending them an invitation via Gmail.
Google sheets vs excel adoption statistics
Both Google WorkSpace and Microsoft Office 365 are booming in popularity. Image credit: NetDNA

Microsoft Excel 101: Personal And Business Use

Excel is part of the Microsoft Office suite of programs. If it’s not installed out of the box, then it has to be purchased via Microsoft website or from a hardware computer shop. Excel is typically harder to use, especially for beginners, when compared to Google Sheets.

The beauty of Excel is that it’s really versatile and users just need to exert a bit of effort at first to understand how this powerful program functions.

Among the most significant topics is understanding the ribbon, how the worksheet works, selecting from the customisation options, and finally, familiarising with Excel shortcuts.

Next, it offers numerous options for customising the ribbon. It enables the user to set their colour themes, set their formulas, plus, additional proofing and saving settings.

Where Excel Really Shines

A feature like Power View, allows users to create interactive charts, maps, and complementary visuals that are not available in Google Sheets.

One of the reasons why Excel is perfect for heavy-duty work is its unlimited storage. Meaning that users could save up all their work in one sheet without sacrificing the speed or the efficiency of the app.

In addition to a huge selection of charts and graphs, Excel also offers hundreds of colours, animation, logos, and fonts to customise presentations freely.

Some consider Excel as the practically professional version of Google Sheets. It mainly targets and interests companies that do a lot of complex data analysis and deal with huge spreadsheets on a daily basis.

Therefore, most of the logistics and financial departments are avid Excel users as they understand what the software is really capable of.

Google Sheets vs Excel – Are There Other Differences?

There are countless minor differences between both tools.

Each one of them has its own niche and masters it very well. Whole Excel continues to provide unparalleled performance to large professional businesses, Google Sheets offer quick, easy and convenient capabilities for free.

The comparisons between Excel and Spreadsheet often fail to point that the two apps target different segments and that the question of choosing just one software is highly subjective.

Still, what often strikes potential users most is the pricing difference between Excel and Spreadsheet. Although Excel offers a cloud version, it remains nowhere near the program’s real offline capabilities. So, Excel fanatics have to purchase the £119.99 native app.

However, this very pricey software works for only one PC or Mac and is compatible with Windows or MAC OS. But, it promises to turn data into useful insights.

On the other hand, the G Suite, which includes Gmail, Docs, Sheets, Drive and is free for all users. Start-ups and working individuals can purchase more storage space for a small monthly incentive.

What is google hangouts g suite growth
Google Hangouts has grown in popular as more and more G Suite tools have been launched. Image credit: ZDNet

Who Is Excel for?

Excel is for anyone who believes the native app is an investment. The powerful software meets the requirements and sophisticated needs of corporates and working professionals whose needs go way beyond basic equations and formulas.

It provides a steady performance that can deal with gigantic workloads and data without showing any sign of exhaustion. Excel is pricey, so it primarily targets users who can afford it in exchange for its great capabilities.

Finally, Excel will never go out of style.

Who Is Google Sheets for?

Sheets counts as an excellent alternative to Excel for users who seek less complex work done as well as collaborative teams who need to work and edit one spreadsheet simultaneously or at once.

Moreover, Sheets makes your data accessible from various devices at the same time.

It offers great options such as auto-saving and revision history.

Sheets also has downloadable add-ons and access to all Google integrations (e.g. Translate, Search, and Finance). Unlike MS Excel, Sheets is free. It’s also an extremely easy tool, practical, and convenient browser-based app that carries out work perfectly.

Offline and Online Capabilities

These days, few people work on spreadsheets all day with no external input. The modern workplace is all about collaboration. This means that collaborative features are often a key decision point for businesses.

Let’s take a look at online and offline access in Google Sheets and Excel.

What is the Offline Access to Google Sheets?

As an attempt from Google to cope with bad Internet connections or unconventional work times, editing was made available for Docs, Slides, and Sheets. For sure, the features offered in the offline version are limited, but still, they come in handy in times of need.

  1. Editing is only supported for Chrome browsers.
  2. Offline editing should be enabled on each computer for one person to access the doc on multiple computers.
  3. Access will give access to stored Sheets on shared computers.
  4. Offline access includes installing an app then activating offline access.

What are the Online Features Of Excel?

When Microsoft launched Online Excel as part of Office 365 everyone was stoked. The ability to work collectively on workbooks online was overwhelming for Excel fanatics.
One of the coolest options was users’ capability to collaborate in real-time on the same Excel sheet. Simply by opening the web browser instead of the desktop app.
But just as offline Google Sheets, Online Excel has its downsides.

  • Cannot be opened anywhere. Unfortunately, workbooks which exceed 30 MB cannot be viewed on Excel Online. Users have to have the Excel native app installed on their computer to view it.
  • Not all of Office’s add-ins are available on the online version.
  • Excel Online only works from Internet browsers and cannot function offline. In order to access and edit the Sheets offline, users must have Excel’s native app installed on their computers.

Why Some Users Mix Between Both Spreadsheet Apps

Practiced sheet users truly ‘excel’ at knowing when to use which software. Picking a side is an outdated challenge. People now have understood that each app has better qualities at certain conditions.

For instance, take being on a budget as a reason.

The same accountant or business owner could have simultaneous projects with varying budgets and struggle to maintain a balance between them. Internet people have advised juggling between the two compatible programs with their different versions and assets.

Secondly, take decisions based on current needs. Prioritising needs is key to success. And in this case, determining exactly the type of needs based on the kind of work required is the right solution.

Excel is a great option for one-man jobs or work that doesn’t require much sharing. Also, it’s a good solution when having a poor connection. On the other hand, Sheets offers amazing flexibility to online users and working groups.

Moreover, Sheets primarily is a browser-based app, users will always enjoy a top-notch experience on all browsers. Unlike the web version of Excel which will not provide a similar experience as it is more prone to malfunctioning or crashing.

Still, Many Users Refer Back to Excel for Its Advanced Features

Firstly, Excel has a few powerful hacks up its sleeve.

PivotTables, for one, enables users to review and analyse data more easily. Pivot Charts also helps in adapting to changing data and creating charts. Finally, VBA coding allows Excel enjoyers to automate their work and get a better grip on repetitive tasks.

Unfortunately, the process of uploading Excel Sheets to Google Sheets is not without faults. Among the most reported bugs and privacy hazards, are failing to transfer password protected documents, tough management of PowerPivot, PivotTables and Power Query.

Lastly there has been a failure in connecting between separate workbooks in Excel.

What Are Macros?

In computer science, macro by definition is a pattern which shows how the input sequence should be mapped to an output sequence following a certain, specific procedure.

Simply put, it is a time convenient method to automate tasks. This feature is extremely useful as it makes formatting and repetitive tasks much more amusing.

Users can record a specific task and macro will do it over and over. It’s similar to having a robot doing your dull chores.

Macros have long been an edge for Excel. Google’s most recent launch doesn’t state that macros have become as good as they have always been in Excel, but, it’s a huge step forward.

What remains an obstacle for Google Sheets is the variety of formulas and charts that Excel offers.

So, to sum up, working with Excel and Google Sheets together is a process that requires a lot of going back and forth. However, it can be totally worth it if handled appropriately and if users understood the pitfalls of shifting between the two spreadsheets.

Google Sheets Vs Excel: A Few Things to Keep in Mind

As you can see, choosing between Google Sheets and Microsoft Excel is an utterly subjective procedure. Since each software is playing on different strands as their points of strength, the spreadsheets are becoming more and more like each other with each new update.

Among the mutual points of power are; compatibility on Android, Windows and Mac, autofill options, templates, web-based version of Excel and offline version of Sheets, auto-saving option, and varying features for co-authorisation and collaboration.

The fact that Sheets is backed up by Google alone, has contributed to many users’ shift from Excel to Sheets.

Not only are people after the reputation and the ease of use, but also since Google has integrated other features such as Google Translation and has facilitated installation of add-ons, it became tough to beat.

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