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Excel vs. Google Sheets

What is it about rivalries that makes them so fun and compelling to watch?

Sports are an obvious example of rivalries. As a Yankees fan, I can never see a Boston Red Sox hat without wanting to get into a heated debate about the state of the two teams and why mine is the best. The funny thing about rivalries is that the two rivals have so much in common. Rival teams play the same sport with the same rules, at different times they can have the exact same players and coaches traded on and off their rosters, they do the same press conferences, and they use the same gear. To us regular fans or non-sport watchers, the only differences between the teams may look like the color of their uniforms.But there is no denying that the culture of a team can be very unique, and extreme fans will be able to rattle off the differences and distinctions between teams easily. It is both the differences AND the similarities that fuel an epic rivalry and create fans (and haters) for life.

Excel vs. Google Sheets

It might not have as many years as the Yankees - Red Sox rivalry, but the Excel vs. Google Sheets competition is heating up, and the fans are starting to claim their seats on either side of the bench. If it is a good rivalry, then you already know there are going to be a lot of similarities, and likely some deep cultural differences. So what is the same and what is different - and more importantly, which is going to support and help you in the important work that you are doing?

Almost everything is the same.

Doesn’t seeing that just make you so happy? I know it makes me happy. At this point, the kind of work you can do and the value you can get out of each system is pretty much the same. In fact, you can almost say “Excel” and “Google Sheets” interchangeably, that is how similar your work and outcomes can be in each platform. Both Excel and Sheets were built for basically the same purpose - to organize data, help you arrange that data into information, provide built-in tools to help you turn that information into knowledge and wisdom, and to help you do all this as efficiently as possible, over and over again. Plus, they look really similar. You open either one up and you see rows and columns, white cells and grey lines.

The differences are few, but HUGE.

There are just a few differences between Excel and Google Sheets that are worth mentioning, but they are REALLY worth mentioning. Here is a quick overview:

  1. Sharing and collaborating. First and most important, Google Sheets was built on the same dream of collaboration as all other Google web products. It is connected to the rest of your Google account, and sharing and collaboration were there from the beginning. Excel does have collaboration options, but they are clunky, ugly and archaic compared to what Sheets can do. Microsoft has upped their game in this area with the introduction of Office 365, but it still just doesn’t hold a flame to what Google Sheets has always done best.
  2. Speed and power. Sorry Google, I love you, but Excel is still faster and stronger than you. The speed comes from two places - first, the processing power of a program installed on your computer has an edge over the web-based systems that rely on internet connections and other behind-the-scenes technical stuff. Second, the keyboard shortcuts on both systems are mostly the same, but Excel does have the edge over Sheets. The shortcuts are better and more plentiful. And then you talk about power - that has to do with the extra stuff you can build on top of the basic functions the systems can do. Google is adding more and more functionality every year, but I don’t think they really have aspirations to equal or beat Excel in all the fun and cool things it can do. But do you really need all that additional stuff anyway? Most people don’t.
  3. Ease of use / user experience. There are some clear differences in how easy and intuitive each system is, but the “better” one is going to be dependent on the person using it. There is less to look at and choose from in Google Sheets, so it can seem more streamlined and straightforward. On the other hand, Excel has some great drag-and-drop capabilities, especially with PivotTables and charts. Google Sheets give you some of the most important functions right up front for you to quickly and easily access (this is especially true when you right-click on a cell), but Excel just looks nicer and more colorful, and allows you to customize it to have your most important and frequently used functions exactly where you want them to be. Sheets saves automatically every few seconds and works the same across Macs and PCs. Excel has great version history if you need to look back at previous versions of your work, and the automatic formatting is plentiful and visually more fun than in Sheets.

Which team are you rooting for in this rivalry?

Having a favorite in this rivalry can depend on why you are using spreadsheets in the first place, and honestly both are good choices for being a fan. Which one should you use, Excel or Sheets? The answer to this is pretty easy - use both! There are great reasons to use each platform for different purposes. I use both every day, and sometimes I try one first and then move into the other.

So, are you a superfan of Excel or Google Sheets? Drop some love in the comments to let us know what you like or dislike about each system, and why you might use one over the other.