Excel has been the prominent spreadsheet software for homes and businesses since Microsoft started bundling it in 1985. With more than 750 million users, it’s the traditional tool for presenting and analyzing data for all kinds of purposes. But despite its popularity, Excel has some disadvantages, and you might feel you’d be better off using an alternative provider.
So, whether you’re new to spreadsheets or you think you might have outgrown Excel, check out our list of the best Excel alternatives.
Even though Excel has some great features for organizing, analyzing, and reporting data on spreadsheets, it also has its fair share of downsides. For one, it’s not meant to be used as a database, so it lacks the tools needed for security, access control, audit trails, and more.
While Excel is good for calculations, it is not the best tool when data access needs to be restricted based on roles or when an audit trail is needed. It is therefore not suited to users who need to secure their data and ensure that no sensitive data reaches unauthorized employees.
Excel also struggles with large amounts of data. It has a row limit which can be an issue with large datasets, and search functions also become very slow which is a serious limitation for professional usage of Excel spreadsheets. These present serious issues in scalability when implementing big data wrangling and management projects.
What’s more, Excel pricing is expensive if you get the standalone release which will set you back £149.99 for one PC or Mac. If you want to buy a licence for multiple users, you’ll have to pay hundreds of pounds. That said, it’s cheaper with an Office 365 subscription, and most new computers are pre-installed with a free trial.
Users also complain that the interface is difficult to navigate, and the menus are hard to decipher. You may find yourself spending hours trying to use it effectively. If any of these issues will impact your businesses, you’ll need to check out some Excel alternatives that might work better for your needs.
Baserow really holds its own when compared to Microsoft Excel. For starters, it’s an open-source alternative while Excel is a proprietary or ‘closed source’ software. Baserow’s open-source core means that you can run it independently and securely on your own server with no vendor lock-in and nobody else having control over it.
With Excel, there is a lack of data access governance which poses a security risk for companies. Excel is not made for granular role-based access control. Therefore, users can access sensitive data and start sharing it without the proper governance structure around it, leading to potential fines in regulated sectors like Health, Insurance, Banking, and Government.
What’s more, Baserow is API-first so it’s easy to connect with external databases or web services. If Excel doesn’t have a feature you need, you’ll have to wait for Microsoft to add to its software, but with Baserow, you can easily create custom plugins or use third-party ones, customizing them to meet your team’s needs and requirements.
Other disadvantages of Microsoft Excel include the fact that it’s predominantly a spreadsheet which isn’t the best tool if you have complex needs. Baserow is a spreadsheet-database hybrid, meaning it offers the familiarity of a spreadsheet with advanced database capabilities such as automation, collaboration, and seamless integration with other software. Plus it’s a no-code platform, making it easy to build applications, without any coding skills.
For these reasons, Baserow tops the list of the best alternatives to Excel. The only drawback to Baserow is that you can only access it through your browser, plus it doesn’t have mobile functionality yet. However, you can expect plenty of new features in 2023.
No list of Excel alternatives would be complete without mentioning Smartsheet. A cross between a project management tool and a spreadsheet platform, it lets you manage and organize your projects from a colorful and collaborative user interface.
While Excel is limited to a grid view, Smartsheet has flexible views to display data, including grid, Kanban, calendar, and Gantt. Additionally, Smartsheet is an online platform with the ability to share work, automate alerts and collaborate on projects in real-time. Whereas in Excel, updates to data do not happen in real-time.
Smartsheet also offers more integrations with Office 365 and other popular work apps such as Dropbox, Google Drive, Slack, Jira, and more. Excel has integrations with Power BI and Azure, but limited connection with other Office 365 applications.
Google Sheets is a popular spreadsheet program that’s hailed as one of the best free Excel alternatives. It offers many of the same features as Excel, but it comes with better collaboration capabilities, allowing users to share links, grant permissions, and read or edit spreadsheets at the same time. In contrast, Excel allows only one user at a time to edit a file, which can be slow and frustrating.
In terms of interfaces, Google Sheets looks similar to Microsoft Excel, so users who are switching don’t have to learn everything from scratch. Furthermore, because Google Sheets is cloud-based, everything is back-up in real-time so users are not at risk of losing their work. While with Excel you can easily lose any unsaved work if your computer loses power or your drive becomes corrupted.
For statistical analysis and visualization, Excel is the better option. It’s also better if you’re working with a high volume of data. When using Sheets, you’ll have to be patient when working with more than 400,000 cells as the tool gets really slow. This is because Google’s answer to Excel doesn’t have the processing power you need to sift through massive amounts of data. But if you’re looking for an easy-to-use spreadsheet with a mobile app, then Google Sheets is a great Excel alternative.
Calc from LibreOffice is a top free Excel alternative. Excel is expensive, especially if you require more features for professional use. But LibreOffice Calc is totally free, regardless of the amount of work you need. Calc is also a great open-source alternative, meaning that independent developers are continually crafting new features to make the spreadsheet program better.
Calc also allows you to import sheets from older platforms like BeagleWorks and Lotus 1-2-3. Additionally, you can compare two separate spreadsheets in LibreOffice Calc – a feature that is yet to come to Excel.
This Excel alternative also offers two versions of its interface. The classic version is similar to the older Excel layout. This enables long-term Microsoft Office users to adapt quickly to the program. Alternatively, you can opt for the more modern NotebookBar design.
However, there are some disadvantages of LibreOffice Calc. The software struggles when it comes to displaying advanced chart formats, while this is a staple in Excel. What’s more, exporting generic XML files is a big part of sharing spreadsheets for use elsewhere, and LibreOffice Calc falls short when it comes to exporting this file type.
WPS Office Spreadsheets is available on all major platforms, including Windows, macOS, and Linux. You can also access it as an Android or iOS app on your devices.
This is one of the go-to alternatives to Excel for data analysis and visualization features. It offers a similar interface and overall experience to Excel with a word processor, a presentation tool, and spreadsheets. But it comes with a range of PDF applications and data recovery that give it the upper hand.
Additionally, WPS Spreadsheets supports CSV, XSL, and XLSX file formats, so you can open, create and edit spreadsheets just like Microsoft Excel, and then save them as a PDF or in Excel format. The software is also free to install and use except for a few premium features, making it the better alternative price-wise.
But there are some disadvantages to WPS Office Spreadsheets. For instance, we mentioned the program’s availability on all the major platforms. You can also access it via the web. However, the web version comes as part of the entire WPS Office suite. It doesn’t have a standalone version.
In terms of pricing, there’s a free version but it has a lot of ads. For a no-advertising version, WPS Premium will set you back £31.49 per year. The Premium plan also increases the number of viable devices to 3 PCs and 6 mobiles at the same time.
With millions of users worldwide, Apache Open Office Calc is a tough one to beat.
It has an array of data analysis tools for number crunching, making it a top alternative to Excel for data analysis. It also converts spreadsheets easily into PDFs for file sharing, although it lacks cloud functionality.
Drag and drop is easier with Calc, which might not seem like a big deal but if you’re moving cells frequently, it’s a time saver. Calc also requires semicolons to separate parameters in a function. Again, it’s not a big deal, but something you’ll need to get used to when moving from Excel. The software also uses a different macro programming language to Excel, but you shouldn’t have too much trouble familiarising yourself if you’re used to working with spreadsheets.
There are some disadvantages of Apache OpenOffice Calc. For instance, Calc has plenty of charts for displaying data, but it can’t create fill gradients and has fewer chart types, plus it won’t recommend charts for your specific data, which Excel does.
Zoho Office Sheet is one of the best Excel alternatives for data analysis and large data sets. It offers way more features for you to structure and analyze your data. The program uses artificial intelligence to make sense of your data, providing insightful analysis. While it can be challenging to structure, edit and analyze data in Excel, Zoho simplifies the process with automated tasks.
Zoho also takes collaboration to another level, something that Excel lacks. The platform has a chat function that allows colleagues to communicate efficiently. You can invite up to 25 colleagues to work together on a sheet. This is especially handy if you’re working remotely or with professionals in other parts of the world.
Additionally, you have more control over your data because you can limit access to your various spreadsheets. Not only can you lock down entire files, but you can also restrict access to individual parts of a single sheet. This is all possible because Zoho is a cloud-based platform.
And while we’re on the subject of the cloud, Zoho stores your data as you work. Therefore, you can’t lose valuable work if your devices cut out or get corrupted. The cloud set-up plus the mobile app availability means you and your colleagues have remote access to your data, so you can edit it wherever you are.
This cloud-based Excel alternative offers comparatively less processing power to handle extensive spreadsheets with rows numbering in the tens of thousands. Plus, it’s completely free.
Quip Spreadsheets are part of its productivity suite and can be used on iPhone, iPad, Android phones and tablets, and on your desktop. You don’t have to choose between documents or spreadsheets because you can combine everything on a single page.
Within your documents, you can embed as many spreadsheets as you want, with support for formulas, more than 400 functions, and a wide variety of data formatting options. Spreadsheets come with plenty of collaborative and social features, including the ability to comment on individual cells in spreadsheets.
Additionally, the software comes with a unique set of custom mobile keyboards that makes it easy to edit even the most complex spreadsheet straight from your phone. When you’re editing a table cell, you can choose between your phone’s keyboard, a numeric keypad, and a specialized formula-editing keyboard.
You can import documents from Microsoft Excel, CSV, and OpenOffice. And you can export spreadsheets to Excel from the settings menu at the top of any document. One of the big downsides is Quip’s per-person pricing which really adds up if you’ve got a bigger team. If you go for Quip Advanced it will cost you a whopping $100 per user, per month.
Baserow is an open-source no-code platform that helps you do so much more with your data. It’s one of the best alternatives to Excel with a wide variety of dynamic spreadsheet and database functions.
This user-friendly software offers an array of data management and collaboration features that give you the power of a developer without leaving your browser. Its open-source core means that you can install it on your own server, saying goodbye to vendor lock-in. It’s also API-first, enabling integration with front-end and back-end tools in a much better way than other Excel alternatives. If you need to manage access based on roles, the RBAC functionality is very advanced. To keep an audit track, Baserow has a powerful and intuitive Audit log feature.
You can choose from a wide range of pre-built templates for all of your business and project management needs. And customize your applications to your exact requirements, with all data available, editable, and updated in real-time. It’s also lightning fast, even with unlimited rows, making it ideal for businesses with big volumes of data.
Ready to get started? Contact Baserow today!
Baserow version 1.20 comes with email notifications, workspace level audit log, search for calendar view, new shortcuts, context menu improvements, and more.
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