Excel has more institutional inertia and a few notable advantages, but Google Sheets now offers a comparable set of features and convenient sharing tools at no charge for individuals and many small businesses.
Supports real-time collaboration via Google Drive
Free to use
15 GB of free storage
Missing some advanced features compared to Excel
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Microsoft Excel is almost synonymous with the concept of spreadsheets, but Google Sheets and other alternatives have narrowed the gap and even overtaken Excel in certain areas over the past few years. While Excel still has more features for most use cases, the competition is fierce when it comes to the top spreadsheet software.
In our Google Sheets review, we take a close look at the pros and cons of the platform to help you determine whether it’s the best choice for you or your business. Even though it’s missing a few advanced spreadsheet tools that are available with Excel, it’s still the best Office alternative for real-time sharing and collaboration.
Google Sheets: Plans and pricing
Like other apps in the Google Workspace suite, Google Sheets is entirely free to use for both individuals and businesses. You can create documents, share them with other users, and access all of the Google Sheets features, regardless of whether you’re a paid Workspace subscriber.
Business Starter members, for example, get 30 GB of cloud storage per user and video meetings with up to 100 participants for $6 per user per month. Business Plug subscribers, on the other hand, pay $18 per user per month for 5 TB of storage per user, more robust security options, video meetings with up to 250 members and attendance tracking, and several additional benefits.
Google Sheets: Features
As mentioned, Google Sheets isn’t quite as powerful or flexible as Excel in terms of managing spreadsheets. For example, Excel has a convenient Quick Access feature that makes it easy to bring up tools that you need to use frequently. Similarly, larger spreadsheets can slow down in some cases, and Excel supports literally thousands of times more cells per spreadsheet than the 5 million available with Google Sheets.
That said, Excel can’t compare to Google Sheets if you’re primarily concerned with collaboration. Just like other Google Workspace apps, Sheets allows as many as 100 users to edit the same document at the same time. It’s easy to share documents by either copying a sharing link or sending it directly to other users.
Google Sheets is generally intended for online use, but documents can also be downloaded locally for offline editing. Even though Excel has a deeper set of spreadsheet tools and features, Sheets still has everything you need to design even relatively complex spreadsheets, and add-ons are also available for further customization.
Google Sheets: Interface and in use
The Google Sheets interface is roughly in line with other Google Workspace apps, so it will be a quick adjustment if you have experience with Google Docs or Slides. Like Excel, Sheets allows users to manage individual sheets within a document at the bottom of the screen. There’s also a corresponding toolbar above the spreadsheet that includes a variety of options for text, formatting, filtering, and more.
While it will take some time for novice users to learn all the functions available in Google Sheets, the application does an excellent job of making those tools as accessible and intuitive as possible. For example, you can simply select an area of cells and then open the Functions menu in the toolbar to quickly access tools for adding and averaging, along with more advanced functions, like sine, log, and absolute value.
Google Sheets: Support
Google Sheets has a relatively streamlined design but a complicated set of features. Fortunately, it also comes with many informative resources to help you get as much as possible out of the application.
If you’re having trouble locating a particular option in the menus, just click Help in the toolbar and type in whatever you’re looking for. The Help dropdown menu also contains a full list of functions and keyboard shortcuts. Furthermore, the Sheets Help Center has detailed guides for many of the application’s tools and settings.
Google Sheets: Security
Google Sheets is a relatively secure platform, but there are a few potential vulnerabilities to be aware of. First, two-factor authentication may not be enabled by default, so you should turn it on in your account settings. Team admins with Workspace subscriptions can manage 2FA and other security policies at the group level.
Furthermore, sharing links could be compromised if a third party gained access to the link. While there’s no way to password-protect your files in Google Drive, you can send them directly to other Google accounts rather than copying and pasting a sharing link.
Microsoft Excel is the established leader in spreadsheets, and Google Sheets was a distant second (or worse) at the time of its release, among other office software alternatives. But it has quickly caught up with Excel in a variety of ways, and the gap is no longer as salient for most use cases. Pivot tables, for example, were a key advantage for Excel until Sheets implemented a similar tool.
Considering its availability and steadily improving set of features, Google Sheets is now a viable Excel alternative for both individual and team use. Its real-time editing and sharing capabilities make it even more practical for organizations that frequently collaborate on spreadsheets.
Excel outperforms Google Sheets in a few select ways, such as supporting significantly larger spreadsheets in terms of total cells. On the other hand, these differences won’t cause issues for most users, and Sheets offers more efficient collaboration, along with free access for individuals and small businesses.
As a free piece of software, Google Sheets is one of the best pieces of spreadsheet software available. However, as a paid software package it might not offer enough unique features to motivate existing Excel users to switch over.
Overall, Google Sheets is worth considering if you’re already in the Google ecosystem or looking for a new spreadsheet application.
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Alex is a writer focused on providing insightful, actionable content that can truly change the way readers approach their finances.
Alex has been writing as a freelancer for several years on a variety of topics including marketing, parenting, and customer relationships along with personal finance. He’s particularly interested in the way seemingly small adjustments can transform a person’s financial outlook.