When it comes to productivity software, few things are as versatile and useful as the Microsoft Office Suite… or the Google Productivity Suite. Although there are, of course, differences, both are powerful tools that can really make your life easier. Given that one is free and one is quite pricey, many people wonder which one is better.
The simple answer is: Neither.
They both have their advantages and disadvantages and are suited for different purposes. Below are some of the major differences between the two to help you figure out which is better suited for your purposes. You can’t really go wrong with either, but you may find one will work better for you than the other.
Working with large amounts of data – Advantage: Excel
While both are capable of handling larger volumes of data, Excel is optimized for it. Adding more rows, columns, tabs and data sets to your Google Sheet will slow it down relatively quickly, while Excel keeps running smoothly. Excel also offers some tools specific to the analysis and processing of large volumes of data (for example for marketing or research purposes) that Google Sheets does not have.
Offline Work – Advantage: Excel
This one is pretty clear cut – Excel works just fine when offline. You can access your files with relative ease, whether they are stored on your computer, a hard drive or another physical device. The same cannot be said for Google Sheets – while offline access is available, it isn’t as extensive as it is for Excel, and since your files are probably all stored in the cloud, you won’t be able to access them without an internet connection. You also need an additional extension to get offline functions at all, which isn’t the most user-friendly of practices.
If you need to work offline frequently, Excel is definitely the better choice for you, especially if you might also struggle with things like installing extensions in the first place.
Collaboration – Advantage: Google
Excel isn’t specifically designed for co-working, despite that being a much-in-demand function. Google on the other hand specifically integrated sharing tools in their programs. Sheets is no different. Content can easily be shared, permissions can be set and restricted, and multiple people can work on the same document at the same time.
This is a pretty major difference between Sheets and Excel, and especially for teams that share content, it can be a major one. Real-time editing and collaboration can save time, effort and a lot of headaches.
Excel is a little more restrictive and requires files to be shared via email for older versions. Office 365 allows for shared online use, but several of the more heavy-duty processing tools aren’t available for the online versions.
Synchronization – Advantage: Google
This is one of the main selling points of Google’s Sheet software – that documents are stored in the cloud and synced across devices. Although a network connection is required for this to work, the functionality is incredibly useful. Files are saved and synced automatically and can be accessed from anywhere with any device, as long as it is logged into the Google account.
Office offers synchronization as well, but there is a lot more setting up required. The only exception to that is Office 365, which also offers instant synchronisation, at the cost of some functionality.
Cost – Advantage: Google
This is an easy one – Sheets is free, making it a great choice for anyone who only requires light or occasional use. Microsoft Office licenses aren’t cheap – especially newer versions that run on a subscription basis and thus require repeated payments.
Functionality – Advantage Excel
This is an area where Excel is ahead of Google. Although Sheets is catching up fairly quickly and improving their service, there is a number of functions that aren’t available yet. This mostly relates to things like probability calculations, processing of large amounts of data, as well as complicated and elaborate formulas. Most functions are available, and for general office use, Sheets is more than sufficient.