Google Sheets vs. Excel

Microsoft Excel vs. Google Sheets: Most people use one of these two leading spreadsheet programs on a daily basis. These applications allow users to enter and manage data in the form of numbers, text, and graphics in a spreadsheet. These programs use formulas to calculate results and connect individual values. The first spreadsheet program was launched in 1979 under the name VisiCalc for the Apple 2. After its own market launch, Microsoft Excel became the undisputed market leader in spreadsheet programs for a long time. However, Excel now faces fierce competition from online giant Google and its Google Sheets.

Excel is part of the Microsoft Office 365 package and is available for both Windows and macOS operating systems. The program is installed directly on a computer and is launched from there. The Google Sheets spreadsheet program is part of a free online software office package provided by Google Drive. The program allows you to work online rather than offline. No software installation is required.

Comparing the main functions of Google Sheets vs. Excel

Let’s take a closer look at the two spreadsheet programs.

Offline vs. online

The main difference between Excel and Google Sheets is the way they work. The conventional Excel program is used locally. This means you’re working on a file located on your computer. An internet connection is not required. In comparison, Google Sheets is completely online. What exactly does that mean? While you can only share your results in Excel with other users by sending them via email or another medium, Google Sheets allows multiple users with access rights to work on the same document at the same time. Each modification is displayed in real-time, and you can even communicate with one another in a chat window located on the sidebar. Excel now has its own cloud-based solution so that you can also use Excel online by signing into OneDrive.

Data size

Many companies are concerned with how Google Sheets and Excel compare to one another in terms of data processing. For example, logistics companies often have to process huge amounts of data. While Google Sheets can fill and process approximately 5,000,000 cells, Excel can handle 17,179,869,184 cells. So, Excel has a greater amount of storage space. Massive spreadsheets with complicated formulas and numerous tabs are easier for Excel to manage.


When it comes to standard functions, Google Sheets and Excel are quite similar. Users who switch from one program to the other generally do not find that the functions they are accustomed to are lacking. From adding diagrams to applying formulas, both programs provide a comprehensive set of functions. The only difference is the location and presentation of options on the user interface which can take a bit of getting used to. For example, pivot tables can be created in Excel using the “Insert” tab, while this function is found under the “Data” tab in Google Sheets.

However, if you’re looking to use special features such as statistical analysis, macros or data modelling, Excel is your best option. While Google Sheets continues to add more functions, only Excel offers special functions likes these at this time.


Presenting data and figures in diagrams makes it much easier to understand complex relationships and identify trends. Excel is a reliable tool for data visualization. In addition, Excel’s many years of experience provide a clear advantage over Google Sheets when it comes to high-quality graphical presentation. The same applies to the more comprehensive options for different display types and ready-made diagram designs in Excel.


Whether or not a spreadsheet program is useful largely depends on the options offered by its formula functions. Such functions can make work much easier in many ways. Both Google Sheets and Microsoft Excel provide basic formulas such as SUM, AVERAGE, MIN and MAX. Users looking to calculate sums or maximum values in spreadsheets will find what need in both programs.

Excel offers a wide selection of advanced formulas that are designed for specific fields. On the other hand, Google Sheets offers special formulas such as GOOGLEFINANCE which allows stock market prices to be integrated. Nevertheless, Excel is still superior to Google Sheets when it comes to highly complicated formulas.


While Excel comes with an extensive menu and many functions and features, Google Sheets is more minimalistic. It is, thus, seen by many users as more user-friendly. Many people feel overwhelmed by Excel’s functions and features and find Google Sheets to be clearer. On the other hand, Excel’s toolbar is better. It lets you make customizations and edits by simply clicking on the relevant icon. Since Google Sheets only uses a menu, you’ll often have to click through multiple menu trees to get to the function you’re looking for.

One thing you can safely forget about when using Google Sheets is manual saving. The program auto-saves all content at regular intervals. Only the latest version of Excel has this feature. If you see the “AutoSave” icon, your Excel spreadsheet will automatically be saved, and if you’re connected to OneDrive, your data will also automatically be backed up to the cloud. Otherwise, you’ll need to regularly save your file by clicking on the floppy disk icon.


In the past few years, Excel has made some upgrades to its security since the password-protected files were easily hacked. Since then, security provisions are much improved when using the OneDrive cloud service. In principle, nothing can happen to your data when it is saved locally as long as you have a good anti-virus program. Google Sheets works exclusively via the cloud. Therefore, your data is stored digitally on the internet. Technically, hackers could gain access to it. However, Google Sheets uses an HTTPS connection and two-factor authentication making it quite secure.


When comparing the prices of Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets, Google Sheets is the clear winner because this service is available free of charge. Microsoft Excel is included in the Microsoft Office package which requires an annual subscription. Excel can also be purchased as a stand-alone program.

Google Sheets vs. Excel: which best suits you?

Both programs now have a comprehensive set of standard functions. Developments over the past few years have shown that Google Sheets has caught up in some areas. However, Excel remains unchallenged in many aspects, such as how much data it can handle, its graphical presentation and its wide range of formulas. The competition between the two tech giants is good news for users since it has led to Google Sheets to take on more of the typical Excel functions and led Excel to expand into cloud-based services.

You should opt for Excel if you value functionality, graphical presentation and comprehensive formulas. If you want to perform calculations with complicated datasets, create massive spreadsheets with lots of tabs and know that your data is completely secure, Excel is the spreadsheet program for you.

However, if you’re looking for a clear and simple spreadsheet program and would like to be able to easily work together on a document with multiple people, you should choose Google Sheets.

Overview of Google Sheets vs. Excel

Function Google Sheets Microsoft Excel
Real-time collaboration Yes Yes
Add collaborator Yes Yes
See modifications in real-time Yes Yes
Comment functions Yes Yes
Chat in real-time Yes Yes
Share spreadsheets    
Send as email attachment Yes Yes
Share link Yes Yes
Publish Yes Yes
Share in the spreadsheet Yes No
Embed Yes No
Set up permissions    
Read Yes Yes
Modify Yes Yes
Comment Yes No
Transfer ownership Yes No
Manage sharing    
Specific people or groups Yes Yes
Anyone who has the link Yes Yes
Anyone in the domain with the link Yes No
Anyone in the domain Yes No
Set expiration dates Yes No
Publish online Yes Yes
Restore Yes Yes
Access detailed versions Yes Yes
Track changes Yes Yes
Security and protection    
Disable the ability to download, copy or print spreadsheets for people with read or comment access. Yes Yes
Protect spreadsheet or range Yes Yes
Prevent spreadsheets from being shared by others Yes No
Work with Excel files Must first be converted Can be opened directly
Create diagrams and graphics    
Line, circle, bar and area graphs as well as scatter diagrams, histograms and maps Yes Yes
Formulas and pivot tables    
Use formulas Yes Yes
Pivot tables or pivot diagrams Yes Yes
Create diagrams, graphics and statistical summaries with one function Yes No
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