What Is Google Sheets?
Google Sheets debuted in 2006 as a free browser-based app. Like Excel Online, it has a limited feature set in comparison to Excel, but strives to be more user-friendly. At launch, Sheets was not as powerful as Excel, but it has made great strides since then. Users can store files in the cloud (on Google Drive), and they must have a Google account to access the app.
Excel and Google Sheets Mobile Apps
Excel and Sheets are available as free mobile apps with limited functionality for Android and iOS. For example, they allow you to create new documents, lightly edit existing documents (e.g., text and numbers, but not macros or charts), customize (e.g., font colors and borders), share, and collaborate. The Sheets app allows offline access to documents that were recently opened on the mobile device, whereas the Excel apps don’t.
Comparison of Key Features
Google Sheets, Excel, and Excel Online perform similar functions, but each has strengths and weaknesses. In general, Excel has more functions than Sheets or Excel Online, such as advanced conditional formatting and the ability to track dependencies, as well as more robust graphs and picture creation options. Sheets is known for having a simpler interface than Excel and, to a lesser extent, Excel Online.
Excel, Excel Online, Office 365, and Sheets allow multiple users to share documents, but each app handles sharing differently.
Because the apps store documents on the cloud, sharing is built into Sheets and Excel Online.
Users of the standalone Excel app can share documents that are stored on a shared drive like OneDrive or SharePoint. Otherwise, users have to download and email them, thus creating multiple copies and potentially leading to issues with version control.
All versions of Excel and Excel Online allow you to share documents with users who don’t have a Microsoft account. They view it through their browser if they don’t have Excel.
Likewise, Sheets allows you to share documents with users who don’t have a Google account.
In real-time collaboration, multiple users interact with the same document at the same time. This is a powerful feature for team projects and documents that require input from multiple parties.
Collaboration is built into Google Sheets. A different-colored cursor indicates what cells other users are working in, but you can’t immediately see who made changes.
Excel Online also has collaboration built in: Users can see others’ work and who made which changes.
Users of the standalone Excel app can’t host a co-authoring session (Microsoft’s term for real-time collaboration).
Excel Online users, Office 365 subscribers with the latest version of Excel, and iOS and Android app users can host co-authoring sessions, but under a number of conditions:
- Office 365 subscribers, Excel Online users, and users of the iOS or Android apps can be co-authors.
- Users of the standalone Excel app can be co-authors as long as they have Excel 2010 or higher.
- Depending on what version and platform each person is using, the host may not be able to see what others are doing in real time, though their changes will appear.
- Because of the variances in available functions, features, and charts between versions, users may not be able to properly view all documents on which they are collaborating.
- Sheets and Excel Online have built-in chat windows that users can access during collaboration.
Formulas and Functions
Formulas are one of the most valuable features of any spreadsheet tool. For example, if you have a spreadsheet full of customer information, you can use the VLOOKUP formula to find everyone with a birthday in the next month and list their email addresses to send them a greeting.
In the past, Excel had a big advantage in the sheer number of formulas, but Sheets has been making an effort to catch up. Currently, Excel has 477 formulas, Excel Online has 471, and Sheets has 432. Each app has some formulas that don’t exist in the others. In certain cases, the same formula has a different name, so it’s tough to make a one-to-one comparison. If you have a newer version of Excel (e.g., 2013 or 2016), some formulas and functions are not available; they are noted in the list linked above.
For more information: https://www.smartsheet.com/google-sheets-vs-excel