How to Get Excel for Free (Including Best Free Excel Alternatives in 2023)

Is Excel free? The short answer is no, but there are several ways to access Microsoft Excel for free and some compelling free alternatives. Let’s dive in!


In today’s business world, Excel, a popular spreadsheet application, has become a staple for organizing data and performing complex calculations. However, with the growing demand for free spreadsheet solutions, many individuals and institutions are seeking alternatives to the paid versions of Excel.

For those looking to explore cost-effective options without compromising functionality, this piece will provide a comprehensive overview of free spreadsheet applications that offer similar features to Excel. Finding a suitable free alternative can significantly impact one’s work efficiency and budget planning, whether for personal use or within an educational or professional setting. Join us as we navigate through the landscape of free spreadsheet services and discover viable options beyond the traditional paid versions.

Paid version of Excel in Microsoft 365 Subscription

To access the full suite of features in Excel, a Microsoft 365 subscription is required. This subscription provides users with the desktop version of Excel, allowing them to utilize all the advanced functionalities and capabilities that come with it.

The paid Microsoft 365 subscription offers advanced features such as complex data analysis, advanced charting options, and the ability to use add-ins for extended functionality. These features are essential for professionals and businesses requiring sophisticated data manipulation and analysis tools.

Exploring Free Access to Excel

The availability of free access to Excel is a significant advantage for users looking to explore the software without committing to a purchase. Let’s explore the various options for accessing Excel for free and understand their functionalities.

Availability of Free Trial Versions of Excel

Microsoft offers one-month free trial versions of Office 365 Suite, including Excel, allowing users to experience the full range of features and capabilities before purchasing. These trial versions typically have a limited duration, allowing users to test the software’s suitability for their needs.

Utilizing Excel Online for Basic Spreadsheet Tasks

The easiest way to use Excel for free is through Excel Online, a web-based version of Microsoft Excel that enables users to create, view, edit, and share spreadsheets directly from a web browser. It provides basic spreadsheet functionality and seamless integration with OneDrive for easy storage and collaboration. This option is ideal for individuals seeking convenient access to essential spreadsheet tools without requiring desktop software installation.

Excel Online

Excel Online vs Excel Desktop: What is the Difference?

Here’s a summarized comparison in a table format highlighting the differences in features between the free Excel Online app and the paid desktop version:

FeatureExcel Online (Free)Excel Desktop (Paid)
Basic Excel FunctionsAvailableAvailable
Advanced FunctionsLimitedFull range
Add-ins and IntegrationLimited supportFull support for add-ins
Data TypesBasic types supportedFull range, including Stocks and Geography
Data Analysis ToolsBasic tools onlyAdvanced tools like Power Pivot, Solver
CollaborationReal-time collaborationLimited real-time collaboration
Offline AccessRequires internetAvailable offline
StorageRequires OneDriveLocal and cloud storage
CustomizationLimitedFull customization options
Pivot TablesBasic functionalityAdvanced functionality
Visual Basic & MacrosNot supportedFull support
KEY differences in features between the free Excel Online and the desktop version

The free online version is suitable for basic to moderately complex tasks, while the paid desktop version offers a full suite of advanced features and greater customization.

Accessing and Using a Free Mobile App

For on-the-go productivity, Microsoft offers a free mobile app that allows users to work on spreadsheets from their smartphones or tablets. The app provides essential features tailored for mobile usage, empowering users to manage data and perform basic tasks while away from their computers. This accessibility ensures that users can engage with Excel even when not at their desks.

The Excel mobile app is available on the following devices:

  • iOS Devices: Available on iPhone and iPad. You can download it from the Apple App Store.
  • Android Devices: Available on Android smartphones and tablets. You can download it from the Google Play Store.
Excel Mobile App

Excel Mobile App vs Excel Desktop: What is the Difference?

Here’s a summarized comparison in a table format highlighting the differences in features between the free Excel mobile app and the paid desktop version:

FeatureExcel Mobile App (Free)Excel Paid Desktop Version
Basic Spreadsheet FunctionsAvailableAvailable
Advanced FormulasLimited supportFull support
PivotTablesBasic viewingFull creation & editing
Charts and GraphsBasic creation & editingAdvanced options
Data Analysis ToolsLimitedFull suite (e.g., Power Pivot)
CollaborationReal-time editingReal-time editing
File Support.xlsx, .xls, etc..xlsx, .xls, etc.
Add-ins and MacrosNot supportedSupported
VBA ProgrammingNot supportedSupported
Conditional FormattingBasicAdvanced options
Data ValidationBasicAdvanced options
Size of SpreadsheetsLimited by deviceLarger capacity
Offline AccessYesYes
User InterfaceSimplifiedFull-featured
KEY differences in features between the Excel mobile app and the desktop version

Limitations of Free Access to Excel

While the availability of free access to Excel is beneficial, it’s important to note that these options may come with limitations compared to the full-featured paid version. Users leveraging online/mobile apps may encounter restrictions in advanced functionalities such as complex data analysis tools or sophisticated formula capabilities. Understanding these limitations can help users manage expectations and assess whether they require the additional features offered in the premium version. Please note, however, that the features available in the mobile app can vary slightly between iOS and Android and may be updated over time.

Best Free Excel Alternatives in 2023

Microsoft Excel is the go-to choice for many users. However, there are several benefits to exploring free alternatives such as:

  1. Google Sheets: A popular alternative, Google Sheets offers cloud-based spreadsheet management. It’s known for its strong collaboration features and is accessible through any web browser.
  2. LibreOffice Calc: Part of the LibreOffice suite, Calc is a powerful, open-source alternative to Excel. It’s great for those who need an offline application with robust features.
  3. Apache OpenOffice Calc: Another open-source option, OpenOffice Calc, provides a range of functionalities similar to Excel and is a good fit for users seeking a traditional desktop application.
  4. WPS Office Spreadsheets: A part of the WPS Office suite, this alternative is known for its compatibility with Microsoft Excel formats and offers a familiar user interface.
  5. Zoho Sheet: This cloud-based platform stands out for its unique features like data cleaning and smart data analytics, adding value to basic spreadsheet functions.

These alternatives offer cost savings, cross-platform compatibility, and often have collaborative features that make them attractive options for individuals or businesses looking to save on software expenses.

Final Thoughts

While Excel’s free versions are great for basic tasks and mobile use, power users might find the paid version more suitable. Alternatively, free Excel alternatives like Google Sheets and LibreOffice Calc offer robust functionalities and might just be what you need. Whatever your choice, there’s no shortage of options to manage your data efficiently!

Now, go ahead and give these alternatives a try. You might just find that they not only meet but exceed your expectations. Remember, the best tool for you depends on your specific needs and how you intend to use it.

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