Spreadsheet Showdown: Microsoft Excel Online vs. Google Sheets

Joe Reithmeier May 18, 2015

Last week, in our comparison of the prominent applications in business cloud services Google Apps and Microsoft Office 365, we looked at Microsoft Word Online vs. Google Docs. Today it’s the spreadsheet showdown between Microsoft Excel Online and Google Sheets.

These two popular web-based spreadsheet applications are used for organization, calculation and analysis of data by business across all sizes and industries. Let’s take a look at some of the similarities and differences between them.


Service Offerings

Microsoft Excel Online and Google Sheets both have similar service offerings for the two applications. Both are available at no cost with the creation of a Microsoft and Google account, respectively.  They also offer 15GB of complimentary cloud-based storage via their associated drives, OneDrive for Excel Online and Google Drive for Sheets. Both web-based applications have cross-browser compatibility, meaning they will function in across all major web browsers.


Both applications have most of the typical spreadsheet program features such as calculations, functions, formatting, filtering and creation of graphs and charts. They both support significant file types like .xlsx, .xlsm for viewing and editing. Google Sheets allows you to edit an Excel sheet natively, just like Excel Online. Both applications also allow you export the documents to a local file source. A major benefit that both spreadsheet applications offer is their collaboration tools, such as commenting, co-authoring and link sharing. This enable users to productively work together on the same documents—even editing them simultaneously.



Microsoft Excel Online lacks an offline component, and it can only be used when an internet connection is available. Google Docs has an offline component via working offline in the Chrome Browser, and user can work on documents even when a connection is not available.

Another important difference lies within the types of files each application supports. The types of files you can view and edit in Excel Online are fairly limited compared to Google Sheets. Commonly used file types like .xls (newer than Microsoft Office 95), .csv, and .txt are supported by Google Sheets, but not by Excel Online.

Excel Online’s menu and layout is very similar to the desktop version, but there are many key differences when it comes to using a workbook in the browser verses the program itself. Google Sheets has more of the key functions that Excel desktop users are accustomed to, but the layout and menu will certainly look a little different. Google Sheets also has more customizable options thanks to its add-ons.

How do I Choose?

Oftentimes your choice comes down to comfort and brand loyalty. If you use Office 365 and OneDrive, Excel Online is a great choice. If you are more apt to use Google Apps, Gmail and Google Drive, Sheets may be a more natural fit. If availability is important, Sheets is also the choice because of its Offline Mode. Familiarity may also play a key factor in your decision. Some users may have a difficult time moving from the desktop version of Excel to Sheets since the menu system is laid out differently and some items are named similarly, but not exactly, like they are in Excel.

What is your verdict, Google Sheets and Excel Online users? Which web-based application is the best? Why is your side better?  Champion your side in the comments below.

If you have any further questions about these applications or would like to learn more about Google Apps, Microsoft Office 365 other business cloud services that can help your company become more productive and efficient, contact us today to speak to an experienced IT advisor.

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