The best free Excel alternatives

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Pau Monfort

In this article, you will find an extensive list of free Excel alternatives. Spreadsheets are ubiquitous - people use them every day to track inventory, budget, data tracking, and a million other things.

And, while Microsoft Excel has been the most used spreadsheet for many years, there are other (free) alternatives you might like more. Whatever your reason for using a spreadsheet, chances are you've used Microsoft Excel at some point. 

And, while the software is more than capable of handling anything you throw at it, Excel is expensive and even lacks some features that would make it more usable. Thankfully, there are many free alternatives available, many of which are just as powerful and easy to use. We are ready, so let's see which are the best free Excel programs.

The best free Excel alternatives… what to look for

Free spreadsheet software should be as powerful as the paid options and come with all the tools you need to strip your heart. Here are the most important features that good spreadsheet software should offer and why they are important:

An intuitive interface: i Spreadsheets are designed to handle complex tasks, but that doesn't mean the software itself has to be big or difficult to use. The best Excel alternatives have a clean, modern look and smart tool organization, and come with a ready-made artillery of built-in formulas, functions, and templates. The software should also have cross-platform support, so you can access it anywhere.

Real-time collaboration support: if your team needs to work together through a spreadsheet, it is imperative that the software supports simultaneous collaboration. Likewise, the program should also be able to track who does what changes when, and allow you to lock individual cells (or the entire document) so that unwanted changes cannot be made. It should also allow you to set the spreadsheet as read-only and enable other permissions for users.

Powerful functions and formulas: Whether you're tracking warehouse inventory, managing accounting for your department, or creating graphs from data for an upcoming presentation, your spreadsheet software needs to have a wide variety of formulas at your fingertips. Basic options for simple math are given, but if you need something more advanced like statistical or logic functions or the ability to create a custom function, the software should be able to handle them.

Visual Dynamic: Not that looking at thousands of cells of text and numbers isn't much fun, but charts and graphs are a little easier on the eyes. Visuals allow you to see your data at a glance and are a must-have for presentations. Good alternatives to Microsoft Excel support dynamic charts and graphs that update in real time like your data and should allow for extensive customization so you can make your images visual and work exactly as you need them.

Advanced features: the Most people will probably never bother with the advanced features found in most spreadsheet software such as custom macros, filters, pivot tables, conditional formatting, or the ability to calculate and analyze large data sets. Still, it's nice to know those features are there when and if you need them.

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Microsoft Excel for free: Google Sheets

Google Sheets (free) has become as famous as Microsoft Excel. Google users already have access to this app, plus its ability to integrate with other Google products (like Google Forms and Google Data Studio) makes it easier for you to stay on track as you work on your projects. Sheets also saves everything you create in the Cloud, so you'll have access to your spreadsheets from any desktop device, iOS or Android.

The software is easy to navigate and use with its clean and minimal look. The concurrent collaboration support is great for teams, and it also has a built-in group chat area where all team members can talk about the document as they work. 

You can comment on cells and set specific user permissions for individual cells or the entire document. A robust Sheet Help section is also ready to help you if you have any questions.

Sheets has tons of built-in formulas, plus lots of pivot tables, conditional formatting options, and templates that can save you time and effort. It contains solid, customizable diagrams and graphs for data visualization, which dynamically update like your data. Google Sheets also stores granular change documentation and supports versioning.

Free Excel Program for Apple Users: Apple's iWork Numbers

Apple's version of Excel, iWork Numbers (free), is available to anyone with an iCloud account (which includes PC users), but the mobile app is only available to iOS users (sorry, Android). The numbers, of course, support the Apple Pencil, so if you're working from your iPad, you can take notes and draw diagrams manually. 

The app also supports real-time collaboration, showing you changes in real time, and allows you to save and export documents as Excel files if you need to work with anyone who uses Excel. If you need to protect an important document in Numbers, you can lock it with a password, Touch ID, or Face ID.

In Apple's true minimalist form, Numbers' default is a blank sheet rather than a grid (as Excel and its alternatives provide) and its features are sparse and minimally represented. You can easily add charts, tables and other content as needed, or choose a template to start with. 

Numbers has over 700 customizable shapes that you can shape for data visualization, as well as many options for adjusting the appearance of fonts, tables, and cell borders. The app's tools are capable of handling complex functions and formulas, and its Smart Categories feature provides table organization and summaries for a deeper insight into your data.

Free Excel program: LibreOffice Calc

Calc (free), part of LibreOffice, is a robust spreadsheet program for Windows, macOS, and Linux users. While the software lacks the beauty and flash of other alternatives, it is open source, which means you have access to a lot more features and the freedom to customize just about anything. If you don't want to start with a blank document, choose a free template to work on.

LibreOffice Calc has native support for Excel files. You can also customize its appearance so that it only shows you the tools and features you want to work with, and its handy keyboard shortcuts make it easy to quickly navigate its interface. 

The software's built-in wizard helps you create visualizations from your data and use other advanced features, making it easy to use for both new and veteran users.

Calc has a neat tool called DataPilot that allows you to import raw data from external databases and manipulate it in your spreadsheet. You can also create dynamic charts and graphs that display updated data in real time. 

The software offers flexible cell formatting and robust customization options for text, cells and graphs. Additionally, multi-user collaboration in Calc is also possible, but this functionality is not as robust as in almost all other free Excel alternatives.

The best Excel alternative: WPS Office spreadsheets

If you are looking for an Excel alternative that still looks and functions largely like Excel, WPS Office Spreadsheets (Free) is the one to choose. 

In addition to having an Excel-like layout, WPS is also compatible with XLS, XLSX and CSV files, so you can import files from (or export) to Microsoft Excel without any problems. WPS Office is available on Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android and even on the web (but only as the entire suite); if you only want to access worksheets, you're still stuck with the entire suite, including the word processor.

WPS has a beautiful modern interface that is easy to use. It supports change and comment tracking, as well as multi-user collaboration with WPS and Microsoft Office users, and has over 50 keyboard shortcuts for easier navigation. 

The software supports advanced pivot tables, contains over 100 formulas that you can use with your data, and has a what-if analysis feature that you can use to find solutions for complex data-heavy problems. 

Paying for the upgrade to the Premium plan ($ 29,99 / year) eliminates ads, gives you cloud storage, and lets you access the program on up to nine devices (instead of three on the free plan).

Microsoft Excel free: Zoho Office Sheet

Zoho Office Sheet (Free) is great spreadsheet software for many reasons, the first of which is its AI-powered data analysis tool, Zia, which analyzes your data and provides you with insights to help you. understand them better. 

Zia eliminates inconsistencies and duplicate values ​​and automates pivot tables and charts that you can add to your spreadsheet. You can also “ask” questions about the tool about your data or analyze it with certain filters in place and it will help you find an answer.

Zoho is not lacking for other features, such as real-time collaboration for up to 25 users or a chat panel where users can discuss a document. The audit trail tool lets you see who made a particular change to the document, and Zoho backs up each document with the default version backup so you don't have to worry about data loss. 

You can lock the entire document, or just certain cells, with a password, set read and edit permissions, and publish part or all of your spreadsheet on the web.

The app supports over 350 features, as well as advanced features like pivot tables and conditional formatting. It can automate certain tasks, create data entry validations, collect data with forms, and import data from external sources such as a web page, RSS feed, or external file. 

The app also allows you to create custom functions and record macros. Zoho is cloud-based and can be accessed anywhere.

Read also: The best alternatives to Microsoft Office

Further Reading:

  • How to use absolute references in Excel
  • How to track changes in Microsoft Excel
  • The best free alternatives to Microsoft Office 365
  • What is Microsoft 365?
  • How to use Microsoft Office Online
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