Michigan vs. Ohio State. Frazier vs. Ali. Coke vs. Pepsi. Excel vs. Sheets? Yes. Since most businesses utilize spreadsheets in some way, the question of "which software is best," is highly relevant.
We have reached a day and age where use of spreadsheets are not longer limited to accountants. Spreadsheets are an indispensable tool for simple items such as scheduling, data organization, and basic budgeting; to more complex tasks like building detailed charts and pivot tables.
Today we are going to take a look at some of the features and drawbacks of each program so hopefully you can decide what is best for your needs.
Cost of Google Sheets vs. Excel
One of the first things that comes up when talking about Excel and Sheets is the cost to use the software.
My Thoughts on Cost
Let me interject my personal thoughts on the cost debate. If spreadsheets really play a large role in your business, the cost should be irrelevant. Although I use Google Sheets about 85% of the time, I gladly pay for the Office suite each year as well and it is still absolutely worth it. Some things I do require the robust features offered by Excel and not by Sheets.
One of the biggest draws of Sheets here is that it is free.
All you need is a Gmail account and you not only get access to Sheets, but also Docs, Slides, cloud storage, and a vast array of other apps that can be integrated with Google Drive with little or no cost.
You can also upgrade and increase your cloud based storage capacity for a small monthly fee.
Google products are available in Chrome and can be accessed through your Drive after you create a Gmail account.
Excel has a cost for most users. There are versions available with some of the more advanced tools removed that is available for students and teachers with a school email address. These versions are cloud based as opposed to desktop accessible versions that have increased upfront costs.
Microsoft pretty regularly offers discounts for their service as well if purchased through an employer or with the use of some other coupon code, but let’s look at their standard pricing options.
Microsoft offers a 1 time purchase software for Home and Student that is $149.99 and includes Word, Excel, and Powerpoint. There is also an option available for $249.99 that adds Outlook into the package, so if you come from a company that uses the Office Suite and have become accustomed to the organization of your email in Outlook, this may be an option to consider.
In addition to the 1x purchase options that install on your computer, web and cloud based versions are available with annual or monthly purchase options. The cheapest option starts at $69.99 a year and covers 1 user. If you are looking to outfit a couple people in your small business, for $99.99 a year you can get a package for up to 6 users.
A full list of Microsoft Office Products is available here.
Shared Access and Collaboration
Unless you are using one of the cloud based versions of Excel, all of your work is saved to your individual device. This means that if you are trying to collaborate with a colleague, you have to ping pong the file back and forth. Often times to prevent confusion about which is the most current draft of an item you are working on, you also have to rename the file (Budget Proposal v1, Budget Proposal v2, Budget Proposal Final, etc).
Sheets eliminates this problem because as the creator of a sheet, you can add permission for other users to edit it in real time. You can each have the sheet up. Its very fast and responsive to a point where you can watch what cell your collaborators have their cursor in.
Everyone that you have given access to on the document is listed in the upper right hand corner. You can open chats windows on the individual document where you can discuss changes with each other if you need to.
Quick, shared access is a get feature if you are working with a small team on something that requires multiple user input.
Microsoft has recently added a feature to their suite called OneDrive that is a pretty clear competitor to the all inclusive web based offerings from Google.
OneDrive has added functions that pretty much mirror the functionality of Google Sheets. If you have become used to using the shared function of Sheets, you probably would be inclined to stick with it. If you are new to collaborative access, OneDrive will, IMO, eventually become more used in the big business world as Microsoft is still king with most large companies.
We’ve all been there. You are working on a project. You get up to go the restroom, and you accidentally kick the power strip or power cable for your computer, and your computer shuts off.
*insert sad trombone sound*
Some newer computers do autosave drafts of what you were working on, but sometimes it may be every hour, ever 30 minutes, etc. So even if you turn your computer back on AND the document recovery worked properly, you may have lost 30-60 minutes of work.
Sheets autosave function updates within a matter of seconds. It is constantly running, and there is no power outage or catastrophe that can be done on the user end which will make you lose all of your work, except maybe the last couple words of a sentence if something happened in the few seconds before the autosave caught up.
As I brought up when talking about shared access, Microsoft has developed their OneDrive which is very similar to many of the functions of Google Drive and Google products. If you are working on an item in OneDrive, autosave just like Google’s will kick in.
Microsoft Office Suite also has a feature available for people with the desktop versions of the programs where your documents can be backed up on OneDrive. You can enable autosave in the upper left hand in any of the programs and link your OneDrive account to the programs on your computer.
I personally have not tried using my desktop based apps, linking a OneDrive, and seeing how quickly updates autosave. I’d imaging since you are adding another step into the equation it is ever so slightly slower than changes made directly in OneDrive, but I imagine it is still pretty fast to save.
Security and Backup
Both offerings offer pretty equal levels of security. The cloud based functionality of both companies use equally secure encryption and 2 step verification to access your account.
Both products offer the ability to password protect individual documents from editing.
And both products give you the ability to share read only versions of the documents.
If you're using Sheets, everything is automatically backed up in the cloud. You do not need to do anything extra to backup your documents. Your Google Drive comes with 15 GB of free storage, and you can upgrade your storage capacity at any time up to 30 TB!
OneDrive includes 5GB of storage with upgrade options only available up to 1TB.
Understandably, that does sound like a big gap. But 1TB is a pretty substantial amount of data.
And if you are in the market for needing 30 TB of cloud storage, there are probably other more conventional data storage options like physical servers that would better suit you.
Ease of Use and Product Ubiquity
Excel definitely has the upper hand when it comes to marketplace presence. It is used by far more businesses. It is likely the software used when you were in college. It has been around for a long time.
The massive presence of Excel will really take a long time to challenge. Lots of people are making the switch to Sheets, but Excel isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Since Excel has been around for so long and has expanded functions available for everyone from accountants to engineers, some people feel it is a bit over crowded and clunky. Kind of a too many chefs in the kitchen kind of thing.
Sheets has the benefit of being late to the game, starting from scratch, and optimizing a product that Microsoft essentially did all of the market testing for. This has allowed Google to create what some people argue is a more streamlined, easy, and a more aesthetically pleasing program to use.
When it comes to using the programs, they are pretty similar in function. Many basic formulas are 100% identical on Excel and Sheets. Simple sheets for items like basic lists, low level data organization, and budgeting are basically a wash.
That being said, if simple basic functions are a wash, does trimming of excess functions and having a prettier interface create enough of a reason to make the switch?
Maximum Complexity and Limits of Programs
Look across the ribbon menu at the top of Excel and you will see drop down menus for MASSIVE lists of formulas in different categories like Financial, Logical, Text, Date & Time, Lookup & Reference, Math & Trig, Statistical, Engineering, etc. Each of these categories can have anywhere from 10-50 different formulas in it. Looking at these massive lists, it can be overwhelming.
As I’ve stated previously, Sheets has almost a complete match of functions available in Excel. But the bulk of the functions are hidden so that user interface is more streamlined and clean. A full list of functions can be found in Sheets by clicking on help and selecting Function List. Clicking will take you to a Google Support page with short explanations of the use of the different functions.
Excel has a bit of an advantage when it comes to the range of tools and functions that are available. Macros are one example. Macros are basically long strings of repeated functions and formulas that you may want to plug in instead of typing the individual functions over and over and over. Sheets is catching up to Excel on the Macro front, but for most people, this is not something you use on a day to day basis. I have a small number of spreadsheets I use where I have written macros, and for simple household spreadsheet needs and basic business needs, macros are not really necessary.
Charts, graphs, and pivot tables are also not quite as robust in Sheets as Excel, but Sheets is constantly adding more and more functionality. Much like macros, slightly overblown for everyday users. The chart and graph options that are available to user in Sheets is perfectly fine for most simple tasks.
Excel also has a slight edge on the maximum capacity for the size of a spreadsheet. A Google Sheet allows for data to be entered in up to 5 Million cells where excel has upwards of 17+ Billion. Just like how I said if you need 30 TB of storage data, you probably need a personal server. If you need 17 Billion cells of data, you PROBABLY need a database tool or some other system. Even if you needed to fill that much up, it will make the program lag and finding and using the data you want will be super frustrating.
So, on a technical level, Excel has a slight upper hand. The usefulness of those technical leads is certainly up for debate though.
What do you guys think? Are you currently using Excel or Sheets? And why do you use the program you do?