Top 5 Free Alternatives to Excel
Microsoft Excel has a lot of uses. For one, you can use it to organize loads and loads of data through spreadsheets. It can also do a analyses for you, and make representations of data. Ultimately, it’s an office tool that never goes out of style. However, it does have a very hefty price tag. As of writing, it’s priced at a staggering $120 on the Microsoft website. Though some businesses can afford licenses like that for their offices, students and personal users may not have that luxury.
But it’s not the end for those that want to use spreadsheets in their work because there are a lot of free alternatives out there. You might be thinking that these alternatives don’t have all the features that Microsoft Excel has, but I want you to reconsider. Features that used to be on Excel can now be seen in free alternatives. Some would even allow you to make changes in the source code to make it a customized program just for you.
With that said, let’s check out the Best Free Alternatives to Excel.
1. Google Sheets
Google, being a gigantic tech company, will obviously not let Excel monopolize the market. So what they did is they developed a rather powerful competitor. I’m talking about Google Sheets.
- Streamlined file sharing
- Easily convert Excel files to Google Sheets
- Has pivot table and macro capabilities
- Need an internet connection
- You need to re-learn some formulas
- Limit to number of cells
Google Sheets allows you to have a team work on a single file in different locations. When I first tried this feature out, my mind was blown. I could see what others were typing and which cells they were working on at the moment. It’s definitely a big plus for teams that are stretched out internationally. it also has all of the features you’ve become used to in Excel.
The only caveats that I have with Google Sheets is that you need to re-learn some of the formulas that you usually use and it requires an internet connection to use it since the file is in “the cloud”. But that disadvantage is also an advantage because you can essentially access your files anywhere, as long as you have an internet connection.
LibreOffice is an alternative not only to Microsoft Excel, but to the entire Microsoft Office Suite of applications. And the best part? All of it is free! It’s one of the free apps that you get when you install Linux and once you’ve tried it and gotten used to it, you might have second thoughts of coming back to Excel.
- Has the same features as Excel (Pivot table, etc.)
- User friendly interface
- Can be used offline
- Need to relearn UI
- Need to relearn some formulas
- Not many options to format cells
As a free alternative, it’s definitely worth a look. For beginners not willing to drop a lot of money on an Excel license, I would recommend this app in a heartbeat. One of the features I’d like to highlight is that you don’t have to be online to use it (unlike the others in this list).
The issues are minor for me but might be big enough for some to turn them away from using this app. For example, you’ll need to relearn the UI that you’ve become used to in Excel. You’ll also feel like there’s something missing from your spreadsheets because there are not many formatting options available. However, if you’re using this app for the sake of organizing and analyzing data, then it’s not much of a big deal.
3. Apache OpenOffice
Apache OpenOffice and LibreOffice stem from the same source code. With that said, you can expect that they handle almost the same but they do have similarities and dissimilarities that set them apart from each other. But the main reason that it’s here on this list is that it is very user-friendly and yes – it’s completely free!
- Offline App – no internet needed (aside from downloading it, of course!)
- Easy to use
- Robust features like pivot table and pivot chart
- Slight learning curve
- Need to relearn UI
Like LibreOffice, you’ll see similar icon layouts and options on Apache OpenOffice. You’ll also have the benefits of being able to create Pivot Tables without constraint. Of all the free alternatives in the market, OpenOffice definitely has a large catalog of features that experts would love to use. I might even say that it one-ups Excel in some aspects.
Of course OpenOffice is not without its caveats. There would be a slight learning curve because you’ll be looking around the UI to look for features. But again, it’s very slight and you’ll find yourself doing the same things that you were doing with Excel quickly after a few hours of tinkering. A full installation is just 90 MB so why not try it out and see how much it can improve your spreadsheets
4. Zoho Sheets
Zoho Sheets is another one of the online Excel alternatives. It’s a great solution if you want to make a spreadsheet quickly. It has the same presentation capabilities as Excel and you basically don’t lose any functionality while using it. Like the other online solutions in this list, Zoho Sheets allows you to access the file that you’re working on using other computers. And what’s more, you can even use your smartphone to access the sheets!
- Cloud-based spreadsheet
- Packed with features
- Similar formulas
- Need an Internet connection to use
- Need to relearn UI
Being a cloud-based spreadsheet application has many benefits. You can work with many others on a single file. So you don’t have to wait for each other to finish their edits. It also has a lot of features, and one of the features that I appreciated the most is the ability to make Gantt Charts with ease. On Excel, you would either need to manually make a Gantt chart, or you’d have to download an add-on.
Again, you’ll need to be connected to the internet to make use of this app. So if you have to work on a student project while outside of your home, you’re out of luck unless you have mobile data. Another issue is that you’ll spend a little bit of time getting used to how everything is set up. But once you’ve gotten the hang of it, you’ll find that Zoho Sheets is an awesome alternative to Excel. And that’s an understatement.
5. Excel Web Application
It’s funny that one of the best alternatives to the Paid version of Excel is Excel itself. It’s an app that you can add to Google Chrome as an app. Once you’ve downloaded the app from the Google Web Store, you can start using it straight away. You’ll need to login to Microsoft first, though.
- It has the same features that Excel has
- No need to relearn anything
- Easily share files through the cloud
- You need a Microsoft Account to use
- You need an internet connection
The advantages of Excel Online definitely outshine the disadvantages. You don’t need to learn new formulas because everything is the same as it is in the paid version. And you won’t be adjusting to a new UI because all the buttons are where you’d expect they would be.
Just a couple of minor concerns though are that you’ll need to be connected to the internet. Additionally, you also need to have Google Chrome installed to add the app. But other than that, it’s an awesome free alternative to Excel.
Try out these alternatives and see which would click with you. Some of them might even trump Microsoft Excel in terms of features. In any case, they’re free so you have nothing to lose.
Did this article help you? Let me know in the comments!