With the prevalence of spreadsheets in the business world — 82% of businesses are using them to manage data according to cybersecurity firm RSA — it’s no wonder Microsoft’s Excel has become a staple program.
People need spreadsheets for all kinds of reasons, and Excel has offered a way for people to organize, analyze, forecast, and visualize data for years. As ubiquitous as it is, the program has some significant shortcomings. Some even consider Excel to be obsolete, citing problems like:
And if you’re running your business on a budget, you might be looking for cheaper alternatives to Excel initially (an Excel Office subscription will run you around $70 per user, per year).
While there may not have been much competition in the beginning, myriad programs offer alternatives to Excel. If you’re looking for something at a lower price, or you just aren’t a fan of Microsoft’s program, we put 10 options for you and your team.
Part of the tried-and-true G Suite of products, Google Sheets is an easily accessible alternative to Excel. If you have a Google account, you’re pretty much ready to go. Google Sheets is nearly equal to Excel in performance, even offering some features lacking in Excel. It’s also free.
Files in Google Sheets are saved to the cloud, like everything else you create with G Suite. That makes Sheets an eminently portable app that can be used across multiple devices. Sheets allows for collaboration by giving you the ability to share projects via email or Slack and to edit simultaneously.
Sheets also integrates with other Google apps like Google Translate and GoFinance and lets you pull data straight from online URLs.
Zoho Sheet is free for teams of up to 25 people, making it another great budget alternative to Excel. Like Google Sheets, Zoho is cloud-based, so it easily backs up all your work, and you can access it across devices.
Zoho’s features are similar to Excel, but with an arguably smoother user interface. The app offers pivot tables and charts comparable to Excels and supports .xlsx, .xls, .csv, and .ods file types.
Simultaneous editing is possible in Zoho, so you can collaborate with colleagues on projects in real time to save time. Visual charts and tools are available to make your presentations more eye-catching, and filters can help analyze data to show you only what you need to see.
If you’re committed to using Excel or want to try it but aren’t sure if you want to shell out the money, Excel Online offers a loophole. Excel Online is a free, cloud-based version of the program that can be installed as a browser extension.
Excel Online stores everything in OneDrive, Microsoft’s version of the cloud, and is part of a suite of free, web-based Microsoft Office programs. The catch is that none of the programs offered here have all the features of the regular version.
Users can, however, access all the basic commands and features of each program. You can create and share spreadsheets in Excel Online as well as edit collaboratively with coworkers. You just need to make a Microsoft account to access the program—something you probably already have if you’ve had to use Skype.
Smartsheet’s strength is in its project management features. Gantt charts, file sharing, and collaborative features let companies using Smartsheet easily track their progress.
Smartsheet is also a cheaper alternative to Excel, with a free trial period available for users to test out the software. After the trial period ends, subscriptions are $14 per user per month for personal accounts and $25 per user per month for business accounts.
Smartsheet’s portability makes it easy to collaborate with coworkers, something especially important when working remotely. Setting up charts with percentage readouts to track goals — as well as the collaboration features — makes this a great app for project management.
Like the Microsoft Online suite of tools, LibreOffice is a set of free, open-source office software designed to meet a range of needs, including spreadsheets. LibreOffice offers many of the same features as Excel — like pivot tables and text to columns — that people have come to expect from a spreadsheet app. It’s also free to use.
LibreOffice is on the more basic end of the spectrum, however, and lacks some of the essential functionality of Excel. Extensive formatting isn’t available, and there have been reports of the program crashing when it has to handle large amounts of data.
WPS Spreadsheets is part of yet another suite of online office tools. WPS Office is available as a free download and has a premium version if you decide you want to upgrade. The premium version costs $30 per year.
WPS works across multiple operating systems, including Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android. That compatibility allows WPS to support just about all office file formats. WPS Spreadsheets is also cloud-based, so it backs up all your information.
Even with the free version of WPS, your documents are synced across devices, so any change made shows up anywhere you access it. If you want the full feature set, you’ll need to pay for the premium version, which includes collaborative features, up to 20GB of cloud storage, and more built-in formulas.
One of Quip’s main strengths is its collaborative features. It allows for simultaneous editing, which is useful if multiple people on your team need to work on budgeting or data reporting.
Quip has over 400 functions, allowing it to handle intensive projects. It also boasts some impressive customers — including CNN and Pinterest. You can try Quip for free, and if you like it, you can upgrade for $30/year for a team of up to five people. They also offer starter and enterprise options for larger and smaller businesses.
Features include chat and collaboration, cross-device access, the ability to create spreadsheets, documents, slides, and more. Quip’s enterprise-level tier offers Salesforce integration with your spreadsheets for advanced data reporting.
Apache OpenOffice is an extremely popular suite of free, open-source office software. It includes all the basics you’d expect from a group of office tools, including word processing, graphics, and presentation software in addition to spreadsheets.
Since the program is open-source, if you have the know-how to code, you can modify it to meet your specific needs. Projects are downloadable, so you can continue working on spreadsheets even when you’re offline.
Calc, Apache’s answer to Excel, performs data analysis, and OpenOffice stores data in an open standard format. Calc also allows for multi-user collaboration and provides templates to work from.
Airtable offers many of the same features as Excel for a lower price. The app has a free plan offering limited features that you can use to test drive this software. Then it starts at $12 per user per month for paid plans.
Not only can Airtable be used to organize your data, but you can also build databases for multiple types of information. Its user interface is intuitive to use and creates spreadsheets that are aesthetically pleasing—always a plus when you’re making something to show to a customer or client.
Airtable’s strength is in the way it organizes data. It’s flexible in the way data can be categorized, stored, and retrieved, making for a much more intuitive user experience. These organization features also lend themselves well to project management, as you can track several different types of data in one place.
Apple users will likely already be familiar with Numbers. Pre-installed for free on every Mac, Numbers provides high-quality data analysis, reporting functions, and visual tools to make your spreadsheets look great.
Numbers leans heavily into pleasing visuals, providing a library of templates to choose from that includes donut charts and shapes you can make into data visualizations. Newer versions of the platform let you convert handwritten numbers and data to typed text. You can even add videos to spreadsheets.
Numbers can also be used on any iOS device, meaning you can take it with you if both your desktop and smartphone are Apple.
If you’re working with someone who uses Excel, you can save files in Numbers as Excel files so they’ll be able to access them. Apple does the same thing with its Pages program, where you can save documents as Word files for greater compatibility.
Our best overall alternative to Excel would be Microsoft Office Excel Online. If you’re looking for a version of Excel you don’t have to pay as much for, you can’t do much better than the same program — even if it is a limited version. True, it doesn’t have the bells and whistles you might expect from the full version of Excel, but it can hold you over until you can upgrade later on.
Excel Online is particularly good for small businesses running on a budget. They can use the Excel files their clients will likely expect and have access to most of the spreadsheet features they need. If you’re just looking to get it done, don’t need anything fancy, and are used to Excel, this is the app you’ll want to try.
If you aren’t looking to stick to Excel and want something with a little more flexibility than Excel Online, you can’t beat Google sheets. It’s web-based, stores everything in the cloud — where you can always buy more storage — and works on iOS, Windows, and Android.
Almost everyone, and every company, already has a Google account, meaning most of them are already using G Suite. With nearly everyone already familiar with the program, file sharing and editing are even easier.
Sheets also works with another app ubiquitous in the workplace: Slack. That makes it easy to share files with your team or with a client quickly. Simultaneous editing can also save time if you’re on a tight deadline.
Bottom line: Google Sheets gives you a level of power nearly equal to Excel for zero dollars. For a free tool, it doesn’t get much better.
Spreadsheets are an essential part of the working world for many of us. Large and small businesses need a way to track and categorize their data quickly. Good software lets them run the numbers and organize their data so they don’t get buried in requests or lose handwritten notes.
While they’re widely used, research has shown that up to 88% of spreadsheets contain errors. With large spreadsheets, it isn’t an issue of whether there are errors, but how many. Double-checking your data, cell by cell if necessary, is one effective, but incredibly time-consuming, way to avoid errors. Instead, consider selecting a solution that will keep track of your data and manage your workflow accurately.
Accelo does just that. Our system supports your business across all its areas of operation, from data tracking to time management, and we’ve saved some of our clients up to 20 hours a week. Our services include:
In a recent case study, Marc Avila — the CEO and founder of 3 Media Web — ran all of the company's project management tasks on Excel sheets. In addition to manually updating spreadsheets, they had separate tools for invoicing and time tracking. Navigating through different systems can be a frustrating and error-prone process. Since implementing Accelo, the team now has one system for their operations and saves 20 hours a week to focus on more meaningful work.
Our cloud-based platform is easy to use and learn and might be just the thing your team needs to tighten up your productivity. Sign up for a free trial today to learn more about how Accelo can help your business.