Google Sheets vs Excel – Which is Better For You in 2022?

Confused between Sheets vs Excel? Lets find out which spreadsheet program is perfect for your need…

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Shivam Kumar
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Microsoft Excel has been the preferred choice for creating and managing spreadsheets since 1985.

While there have always been other spreadsheet tools in the market, no tool has even come close to Excel— Until the release of Google Sheets.

While Google Sheets also started off as a basic alternative to Excel, over time it has become a solid spreadsheet tool for all kinds of data storing & analysis.

So what are the main differences between the two, and how can you decide which one to use?

In this MS Excel vs Google Sheets guide, I’ll take you through a deep dive into the two major spreadsheet programs so you can figure out which one is best suited for your needs.

Google Sheets vs Excel

Both Google Sheets and Microsoft Excel are versatile spreadsheet applications and are very similar if you look at them from distance.

However, in terms of the core elements of a good spreadsheet tool, there are some key differences.

Below we’ll objectively look at these key elements of Excel and Sheets to check how they compare or contrast. 

Let the battle begin!

Google Sheets vs Excel comparison chart
A simple infographic showing the key differences between Google Sheets vs Excel

01. Data Storing Capacity

First thing first, how much information you are working with?

Generally, Excel is preferred for extensive details and Google Sheets for smaller data.

A normal Excel Worksheet can support up to 1,048,576 rows and 16,384 columns of data, or 17,179,869,184 cells in total.

On the other hand, Google Sheets can support up to 5,000,000 cells or 18,278 columns in a worksheet.

Google Spreadsheet

For most spreadsheet users, the 5 million cell limit in Google Sheets is more than sufficient, but if you are regularly working with the massive volume of data (maybe you’re a data analyst at a big corporation), you might quickly touch Google Sheets cell limit. In this case; Excel should be the right option for you.

02. Speed or Performance of the Tool

There are is a reason why Google has put the limit of total cell count to only 5,000,000 max.


As Google Sheets is a web-based tool, adding more cells will lead to slower performance or latency, especially when your internet connection is slow.

On the other hand, Excel can handle a large volume of cells because it is locally installed on your computer. You do not need to worry about high latency as long as you have a computer with a fast CPU and memory.

03. Ease Of Use

For those who are using Excel for ages, it is almost as easy as driving a good branded car and seamlessly adapting to the latest version with each new release.

However it takes time to learn MS Excel, and even those who are using it for ages can’t claim to know each and every feature.


But to be fair; not every spreadsheet user needs to know each and every feature of a program. Depending on their area of work; they would need to know only those aspects that are required for their fields.

However, for someone who is using spreadsheet software for the first time, Excel may appear daunting in the beginning. Hundreds of commands spread across numerous ribbons, tabs, groups, and advanced business analysis features — it can be a lot to take in for a new spreadsheet user.

Google Sheets, on the other hand, does not overwhelm new users with that many dropdowns and a host of features on the main layout. Their interface looks simple and minimal.

04. Formulas and Functions

Functions and Formulas are the backbones of any spreadsheet program. They help you perform basic to complex calculations, processes, organize, sort, and analyze data.

For example: If you have a spreadsheet full of customer information, you can use vlookup formula to quickly find everyone with a birthday in the upcoming month. So that you can easily send them birthday greetings in their mail.

When it comes to standard functions, MS Excel and Google Sheets are quite similar. Users switching from one program to another do not find that the functions they are accustomed to are lacking. 

However, since Google Sheets is a web-based tool, it has some special formulas that can work with the web. For example: =IMAGE(“URL”) formula helps you direct insert any image into a spreadsheet through their web address.

Image function in Google spreadsheet
Wikipedia logo inserted through IMAGE function in Google Sheets

Another special function that I find very helpful is “GOOGLEFINANCE” which allows you to import real-time financial and currency market data straight into Google Sheets.

Google Sheets also came up with dynamic arrays formulas like FILTER, SORT, and UNIQUE a lot earlier than Excel did. Although as of 2022, Excel also has these formulas, but only available for Excel 365 and Excel 2021 users (not for prior versions like 2016 or 19.)

Excel has also started working on new formulas that are not available in Google Sheets. For example, there is a new lookup formula called XLOOKUP, and LET function that lets you define named variables in a formula.

I don’t think there is much difference between Excel and Google Sheets formulas, both are continuously developing new as well as copying formulas from each other.

05. Automation – Macros and Scripting

Macros is actually a procedure or a set of coded instructions that lets you automate repetitive tasks.

For example: Suppose that you work on a spreadsheet that contains customer information along with their subscription expiry date.  Every day in the morning, you need to filter all customers whose subscriptions expire that day and then format them in the red background & bold text. So that the email marketing guy of your company can send the customers a final email about renewing subscriptions.

Rather than doing the same thing mindlessly every morning, you can instead record a macro and run it to apply filter and formatting within a click.

In Excel, you can add macros using Visual Basic for Application (VBA) script. In Google Sheets, you can add them using Google Apps script (similar to JavaScript.)

Excel VBA

While most people find learning VBA pretty easy, its use is limited to Microsoft programs like Excel, Word, and Powerpoint only. Google App Script on the other hand can work with many different applications, but it’s harder to learn (if you don’t know JavaScript).

Google Apps Script

The good thing is both MS Excel and Google Sheets also provide the “Record Macro” feature. So, if you are not comfortable with coding or writing scripts, just record your steps and the recorder will generate a procedure based on your clicks & keystrokes that you can run over and over again.

06. Support of Business Intelligence Tools

Excel has a comprehensive set of business intelligence tools such as Power Query, Power Pivot, and Power BI. These tools are intended to gather data, turn it into meaningful information, and then make better decisions.

Here is a quick overview of the three most popular Excel BI tools:

  1. Power Query – This tool simplifies the process of importing data from different source files, and manipulating that data to meet your needs.
  2. Power Pivot – This tool lets you analyze complex information and create a Data Model, which is a collection of tables with relationships.
  3. Power BI – This tool lets you convert data from various data sources into interactive dashboards and analysis reports. 
Power Bi Excel
Image Credit – Microsoft

These kinds of advanced data analysis features are not present in Google Sheets, nor does it looks like they have any plan to add them in near future. Maybe because their users like students or small business owners don’t need these advanced functionalities.

07. Security of the Data

You want your spreadsheet file to be safe. Luckily, both program offers pretty good security solutions.

Earlier, MS Excel had a bad reputation when it comes to security, as the password-protected file was the only option for securing your spreadsheet files. Those password-protected files were pretty easy for any good hacker to break into.

Over time, MS Excel has improved its security measures, especially if you’re storing your files in OneDrive (cloud service of Microsoft)

If you are storing spreadsheet files on your computer, another thing you’ll have to worry about is backing up those files on an external hard disk or using a service like iDrive.

Unlike Excel, Google Sheets always store your files in Google Drive for free of cost. Google uses an HTTPS connection and you can use 2-step verification to further improve the security of your drive account.

Image Credit – TechTalks

08. Charts and Pivot Table

While Google Sheets is getting better at charts, MS Excel is a champion in this area too. 

With more types of charts, more options for formatting those charts, more options for error bar displays, and numerous options for quickly changing the layout and style of those charts, Excel is hand down a better option for chart presentation.

What about the Pivot table?

Pivot tables are super handy when it comes to data analysis. It allows you to quickly summarize huge datasets (with a few clicks). You can also format, sort, and filter data in your pivot table to see comparisons, patterns, and trends in your data.

Pivot table in Excel vs Google Sheets
Pivot table created in Excel

While Sheets is quickly catching up in this area too, Excel still has better options for creating pivot tables. For example: You can change the layout, style, and format data quickly in an Excel pivot table.

One thing I like about Google Sheets Pivot Tables is that it updates automatically when you add new data to the source. In Excel, on the other hand, you need to press the refresh button every time.

09. Collaboration on Spreadsheet

With so many companies shifting to remote work culture, collaboration has become a necessary feature in any business tool.

While Microsoft is working hard to create a more collaborative experience for its suite of office apps, it is yet not close to the seamless sharing & collaboration that came with Google Docs, Sheets, and so on from day one.

There is a whole lot of sharing settings available in Google Sheets. You can fully control who can view your spreadsheet, edit it, or make comment on it. You can send specific invites, or just create a link to share with your colleagues or the public.

Collabration in Google Sheets
Two members working simultaneously on a Google Sheets

Any edit or comments made by your colleagues can be seen in real-time, and you can also keep track of every single change made by clicking the ‘last edit…’ option. What’s more? You can even chat with your colleague within the Google Sheets interface in real-time.

Live chat collaborators
Live chatting in Google Sheets

Excel has been also trying to catch up with the internet era with real-time collaboration. If you are saving your file to one drive instead of the local computer, you can collaborate with your colleague on an Excel Sheet in real-time.

However, Excel still needs to do more work to make the collaboration smooth (or friction-less) like Google Sheets.

10. Cost of the Tool

For those working in big organizations, the cost of the tool would be irrelevant, as their company will provide subscriptions to these tools.

But for those planning to use it for personal use or small business, the pricing of Excel vs Sheets may play a big role in your decision.

Google Sheets is completely free for individual use. Although, you’ll have the option to subscribe to business plans to get more storage, domain customization, more participants in a video call, and so on. In my opinion, the free version should be enough for most users.

The cost of Microsoft Excel, on the other hand, varies on how you buy the tool from Microsoft. Most people buy it as part of the office suite of apps, which costs you  $69.99/year or $6.99/month for a single user. Alternatively, you can pay $129.99 once to buy Excel as a standalone program.


Google Sheets vs Microsoft Excel Comparison Table

Here is a quick summary of the difference between Google Sheets and Excel:

ParametersGoogle Sheets Microsoft Excel
Developed byGoogle LLCMicrosoft Corporation
Launching Year20061987
Cells capacityMax 5 million cells in a worksheetOver 17 billion cells in a worksheet
Learning curveNew spreadsheet users often find it easy to learn and useLearning may seem daunting at first because Excel is so feature-rich.
SpeedIt starts lagging when you reach the maximum cell capacityHandle millions of rows with ease based on your computer’s CPU & Memory 
SecurityHTTPS and 2-step verification in your cloud accountPassword-protect files or save in OneDrive for better security
AutosaveSave automatically to Google DriveSave automatically to OneDrive
Functions & FormulasThere are over 480 functions in ExcelThere are over 495 functions in Google Sheets
Languages supportedIt is available in nearly 91 languagesIt is available in nearly  83 languages.
Macro/AutomationRecord macro, or write code using Apps Script.Record macro, or write code using VBA.
Extending functionalitiesAvailable using add-onsAvailable using add-ins
Collaboration(Superior) Real-time collaboration using Sheets and DriveReal-time with co-author feature and OneDrive
Cost of the toolFree for personal useOffice subscription starts from $6.99/month for a single user

Frequently Asked Questions on Excel vs Sheets

Let’s answer some common questions spreadsheet users often have while figuring out Excel versus Google Sheets:

Though Google Sheets and Excel are both spreadsheet programs and used for similar purposes, they are made by different companies and are suitable for different users.

Google is a simple and minimalistic version of Excel which is often used by freelancers, teachers, and small business owners. Excel, on the other hand, offer complex data arrangement and analysis features which are preferred by data analyst and experienced spreadsheet users.

If you are a new spreadsheet user, you will often find Google Sheets easier than Microsoft Excel because of its clean UI and Minimilastic options.

Here are some tasks that only Excel can do or at least do better than Google Sheets:

  • Microsoft Excel can handle large set of data easily while Google Sheets starts lagging after crossing few million cells.
  • Excel can easily import data from many external sources, including databases, text files, Excel files and cloud services.
  • Excel traces dependencies; Sheets doesn’t.
  • Excel has better sorting and filtering options.
  • 3D reference to summarize data from different tabs in your worksheet is not available in Google Sheets.
  • You can conditionally format charts in Excel only.
  • Business intellignece tools like Power Query, Power Pivot or Power BI is not available in Google Sheets.

And the list goes on…. Although, there are some features that are available in Google Sheets but not available in Excel. But, overall Excel obviously has more features compared to Sheets.

Yes, most of the excel formula works in Google Sheets but there are a few which do not work in Google Sheets. Refer to this list to check out incompatible formulas between Google Sheets and Excel.

Yes, you can copy and paste from Excel to Google Sheets or vice versa. Just highlight all of the cells you want to copy from Excel and Press CTRL+C, then come to Google spreadsheet and press CTRL+V.

It depends on the data, user, and the criteria you are using to decide what is “better”. If you’re working with small data sets and collaborating with others, Google Sheets would be an ideal option. If you’re working with big data and doing a lot of in-depth analysis yourself, then Excel would be a better choice.

Yes, you can open Excel documents in Google Sheets. First of all, you’ll need to upload your excel document to Google Drive. Once your file gets uploaded, right-click on it right-click it, point to “Open With” on the context menu, and then select “Google Sheets.”

When Google launched the first version of Sheets in 2006, no one thought it will ever catch the versatility of Excel. But, over time, Google Sheets has become a viable alternative to Microsoft Excel for most spreadsheet users.

Many small business owners and startups have shifted to Google Sheets because of its minimalist and collaborative experience. However, I believe big enterprises will continue using Excel for its advanced data arrangement and analysis features.

Google Sheets allows you to collaborate on a spreadsheet with your team in real-time, as well as has an in-built chat window that lets you discuss changes with your team.

If you are planning to learn a spreadsheet program for better job prospects, It is recommended to learn Excel first, since most of the big companies give priority to candidates with Excel experience.

However, if you are planning to use a spreadsheet program for personal use like creating a personal budget or tracking the income & expenses of your freelance business, learning Google Sheets will be a better choice.

Conclusion of Google Sheets vs Excel

While Sheets and Excel are very similar to each other, there are definitely situations when you should prefer one over the other.

If you are working as a data analyst or scientist whose works involve dealing with large amounts of data and performing business intelligence works, Microsoft Excel should be clearly the best choice for you.

On the other hand, if you’re a teacher, student, freelancer, or small business owner who is looking for a simple and easy-to-use spreadsheet program, Google Sheets should be the right choice for you.

Over to You: So what camp are you in? Microsoft Excel vs Google sheets? Let me know your opinion in the comment section below…

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