Sheets vs. Excel: Is there a battle?

There is a battle going on, for sure. But, it’s more for hearts and minds now that the playing field has been somewhat leveled. With both productivity software behemoths offering free online productivity software for documents (Google Docs – Microsoft Word Online) and presentations (Google Slides – Microsoft PowerPoint Online), and with both offering free shareable cloud storage (Google Drive – Microsoft OneDrive), the arguments are down to what you need and what you like to use.

The old battle cry of Google used to be that Sheets was free. Microsoft has risen to that challenge. Then, it was the collaborative nature of Google Drive. Now Microsoft enables that same functionality in OneDrive. Microsoft fought back with its robust desktop apps, which could be run whether or not you were connected to the internet. You can now run Google apps locally, too, internet or not. So, here are a few points to ponder when choosing a spreadsheet solution for your organization.

The featherweight champ

Google Sheets is still a lighter-weight app than Excel, even Excel online. If you don’t require the more advanced features of Excel, you’ll find that Sheets starts faster and is slightly quicker on selecting actions.

One place where Sheets just edged out Excel online is pivot tables. You absolutely cannot do one in the current version of Excel online, but you can in Sheets! Granted, the functionality of Sheets pivot tables is nowhere near Excel desktop, but it is a longstanding argument that has just lost a little steam. Sheets loads 1,000 rows initially; Excel online, all 1,048,576.

Sheets vs. Excel

Functions and formulas

There are 112 functions in Excel that are not in Sheets. Likewise, there are 53 functions that are Sheets specific and not included in Excel. All told, there are 472 native Excel functions and 413 Sheets functions. The race is a lot closer than it used to be. The advanced Excel user might be missing these in her arsenal if she had to work in Sheets over Excel desktop.

  • IfNA: replaces the specified value if the lookup function performed results in #N/A
  • FormulaText: translates a formula into a text representation
  • GetPivotData: retrieves a data point in a pivot table

Pivot table

Chart choices

Sheets now offers map and gauge charts, which could be useful for creating dashboard functionality. Other than that, the choices are limited to the standard chart types also shared by Excel Online. That said, nothing is a match to Excel desktop for robust and flexible chart functionality. The combinations and permutations of chart choices seem limitless. You can also save your chart creation as a template.

Longing for the old days?

If you miss your dropdown menus, using Sheets will feel more like home. They have not moved to a ribbon interface like you will find in online and desktop versions of Office.

Bottom line

Either online spreadsheet program will function for all but the advanced user. Transitioning an entire organization to G-Suite or GoogleDrive will leave your Excel ultra-geeks out in the cold. With cost savings no longer being an issue and the same with collaboration, transitioning from Office to Google might not be worth the training pain.