Google Sheets vs Excel: How Do They Differ?

When it comes to creating a spreadsheet on your computer, the program most professionals have routinely turned to is Microsoft Excel. As part of the Microsoft Office suite of programs, this title has been around for decades and has built a level of trust few other programs can replicate. For years this was the only true option available when it came to creating reliable spreadsheets on the computer: at least until Google Sheets came out. Here is what you need to consider regarding Google Sheets vs Excel.

What Is Google Sheets?

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When looking at Google Sheets vs Excel, Google Sheets is the new kid on the block. Google has been releasing applications for some time now, and it is now going head to head with Microsoft. There are still a number of powerful features Microsoft has that Google doesn't, but competition in this sense is good. For years, Microsoft didn't have to worry about anyone creating something similar to Excel, and because of this it did not do much in the way of upgrades or updates. But with Google Sheets, that is all different.

Google Sheets has been around for longer than most people might assume. Google first released the application back in March 2006, so it's been around for 13 years. The spreadsheet software runs through a user's Google account, so it is designed to be an online application (although it is possible to download the program and work offline).

Google Sheets is also available to work on nearly every platform you might use. Not only does this mean that it runs on Windows, Microsoft, and the Google Chromebook OS (which is a form of Android), but it also runs on mobile platforms like macOS, Windows Phone, Android, and even Blackberry.

The History of Google Sheets

While the spreadsheet application has technically been around since 2006 it hasn't always gone by the same name. XL2Web created the web-based spreadsheet application and was eventually bought out by Google. Google went on to name the application Google Labs Spreadsheets, and users could begin using the application in June 2006.

Eventually, Google purchased DocVerse in 2010. The company created a word processor application that worked online in a similar fashion to how the spreadsheet application did. Google then purchased Quickoffice in 2012, which offered other Microsoft Office-like applications, but for free. By the end of 2012, Google renamed its Google Labs Spreadsheets to just "Google Sheets" and started offering it as a Chrome application download. Now, it is available everywhere and on any device you might want to use it.

What Is Microsoft Excel?

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When making the Google Sheets vs Excel comparison you need to look at the overall history and creation of Microsoft Excel. The very first release of the spreadsheet software, which so many other spreadsheet softwares have been based on, came out in 1985.

This wasn't the first foray into the world of spreadsheets for Microsoft though. It had initially created a similar program in 1982 called Multiplan. However, as computers began to move into the world of MS-DOS, most spreadsheet users turned to a Lotus 1-2-3 application. Microsoft retooled the application and released its first version of Excel in 1985 as a standalone application. However, it wasn't officially packaged with the rest of its Office suite of programs until 1987.

As Microsoft started to increase its foothold in the world of personal computers Lotus began to fall behind. Microsoft didn't release a spreadsheet program to the Windows OS until the early 90s, and by then Excel (and the rest of Microsoft Office) was one of the best selling programs anywhere.

Further Development of Microsoft Excel

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Over the years Microsoft Excel has basically re-invented the world of spreadsheets over and over again. In 1990, the big thing was its new inclusion of toolbars and add-in cell support. Then when Windows 95 came out, all Microsoft Office programs received a new facelift and all kinds of new features, including Excel (known as Excel 5.0 at the time).

Today, Excel is still the best selling spreadsheet application around; but if you are looking for a program that fits your own needs, it is now important to compare Google Sheets vs Excel to see which addresses what you're looking for in a spreadsheet application.

Google Sheets vs Excel: Differences

While both Google Sheets and Excel are spreadsheet applications, it is important to compare the two and to look at the differences between them. This way, when attempting to decide the winner of a Google Sheets vs Excel battle, you'll have a better understanding of the applications.


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With this there is a clear winne: Google Sheets is free. Most Google applications are free, and this is no different. Microsoft, on the other hand, has a few different tier options. First, you can pay a subscription fee, which is either about $7 a month, or approximately $70 a year. Not this does give you full access to the entire Microsoft Office suite (for a single use license), but when you subscribe receive not only patch updates, but also full system updates when released.

You can also buy the application as a standalone software title. You will pay about $130 for this. Basically, you're paying either $70 a year or you're getting something for free.


There's nothing worse than working on something, spending countless hours on the content, only to have the computer crash and all your work go out the window. While sure, that's a lesson in the need to be constantly saving, you also shouldn't be forced to save content after every single move you make. That makes for an interesting Google Sheets vs Excel comparison.

For starters, Google Sheets autosaves everything. Whenever you edit or adjust anything, Google automatically saves what is done. So, if your computer disconnects from the Internet, the battery dies, or something else happens, you won't lose anything. With Microsoft Excel, there is an autosave feature when working in the cloud. However, if you're working on something locally, you need to remember to continually click the save button. If you don't, you run the risk of losing everything you just did.


If you work with others using the same spreadsheet, this is an important feature. If you don't, you don't need to focus on this area. However, with Microsoft Excel you save the file locally. If you subscribe to the cloud-based version (which is what you do if you're paying the monthly service fee), then you can access it on the cloud as well as others. However, you can't always try it in real time.

With Google Sheets, you can see exactly who is working on the software and even see the changes as the changes are being made in real time. Everything is stored in the cloud (although you can save the files locally as well). If you work with others, either on the other side of the globe or even on the other side of the desk, there's no need to save the file and email it over (or save it to the cloud for later use). Everything is done in real time, which makes this a real time saver.

Customize Your Spreadsheet Program

Have you ever worked in a program and wished some presets were closer by? If only you could edit the display and make it more personally user-friendly, right? Well, with Microsoft Excel, you can do that. There is a Quick Access toolbar that allows you to adjust the shortcuts and buttons you have on your dashboard. This will speed up the entire process and make things easier. Google Sheets does not allow you to do this at all.

Large Files

Perhaps you need to work on a very large account. Think really large. If you have an extremely large account and file you need to work on, you may find Microsoft is the only option for you. Now, Google Sheets can handle a rather impressive 5 million cells. Chances are you'll never come close to this kind of size. But what if you do and what if you need to go over?

Well, that's where Microsoft Excel comes in. With Excel you can handle over 17 billion cells. So in terms of the size of a document, if you need something completely out of this world in terms of size, Microsoft has you covered.


When it comes to Google Sheets vs Excel, the right spreadsheet application will be what works best for your particular needs. You can go with Excel or you can go with Sheets. Both are excellent applications. With Google you can't beat the price (free), and yet with Excel you receive all kinds of powerful tools. So go through the different features of what makes the two different. You may even want to test the applications out on your own just to see which one feels more comfortable at your fingertips.

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