The Best Microsoft Excel Alternatives
As reported by Helen Bradley in this Small Business Computing article, these free applications -- Google Docs Spreadsheet and Excel Web App -- are solid, quality spreadsheet tools that, depending on your small business's needs, can readily replace Excel and save you money.
1. Google Docs Spreadsheet
Google Docs Spreadsheet is the spreadsheet component of the Google office applications suite that includes a word processor, presentations and spreadsheet tools as well as some ancillary applications including Gmail and Google Calendar. The Google Docs applications are cloud based, so you need a good, consistent connection to the Internet.
Google Docs Spreadsheet includes what you would expect to find in data-entry and formatting tools and the formulas you would expect it to support. It offers Data Validation similar to Excel and PivotTables.
The charting feature is pretty standard for the applications we're looking at -- none of these spreadsheet alternatives offer great-looking charts to match the look of the new charting engine in Excel 2007/2010 (except the Excel Web App), but they all offer standard charts. Google's charts can be added to a worksheet or later moved to a sheet on their own.
The Gadgets capability in Google Docs Spreadsheet sets it apart from all the other spreadsheet applications in this roundup, including Excel. Gadgets let you do things like create and plot data on a map inside a worksheet.
You can save Google Docs spreadsheets online and download them to your local disk, and you can collaborate with others on them. If you have a fast Internet connection, then Google Docs Spreadsheet is a worthy alternative to using Excel.
2. Excel Web App
A year ago the list of free Microsoft Excel alternatives would not have included Excel itself. All this changed with the launch earlier this year of the Microsoft Online Web Apps -- Excel, OneNote, PowerPoint and Word -- all of which are free. Each of these cloud-based small business apps is a cut-down version of the offline application, which means you don’t get access to full Excel compatibility online but you get a good range of its features.
You can open files saved in the new .xlsx and .xlsm formats and view the workbooks even if you can't use some of the features included in them. For example you can view but not edit sparklines, and shapes and VBA code aren't accessible. However you can edit the data that the sparklines are based on and the sparklines will update accordingly.
The Excel Web App gives you a means to create Excel worksheets that you can share and collaborate on with others. You can upload worksheets from your local machine and download them into an offline version of Excel if desired, and you can share worksheets with others online. Like Zoho and Google Docs you will need access to a fast Internet connection for this browse-based app.
If you don't want to shell out money for a full version of Microsoft Office, and if you can live with the subset of features included in the Excel Web App, then it might be a viable application to consider.
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