The year was 1987. We met the Simpsons for the first time, Whitney’s Houston’s “I Want to Dance with Somebody” took over the airwaves, and Microsoft Excel officially launched the new Windows operating system. With its vibrant graphics and unprecedented processing power, Excel rapidly overtook the market to become the standard in spreadsheet software.
While Excel is certainly a long-time favorite, not everyone is willing to dish out the $69.99 per year price tag for an Office365 subscription — especially when the program has yet to adopt seamless collaboration features other software has incorporated.
Whether you’re on the hunt for a free alternative or seeking new tools to improve productivity, these are the top 11 Excel alternatives.
Top 11 Excel alternatives
- Google Sheets
- Apple Numbers
- WPS Office Free
- SoftMaker FreeOffice
- ThinkFree Office
- Polaris Office
- Grist Labs
- Zoho Sheet
WPS Office Free
If the name XL2Web doesn’t sound familiar, that’s because Google changed the name when they acquired the web-based spreadsheet software in 2006. Now known as Google Sheets, the software has become one of the top Excel alternatives for a number of reasons, including the fact that it’s free.
Google Sheets originally became popular because it was the first spreadsheet software that allowed users to collaborate in real time. Today, up to 50 team members can all collaborate on one sheet at the same time.
In addition to basic mathematical and logical functions standard for Excel, Google Sheets furthers its collaborative abilities by syncing with G Suite apps like Google Analytics, and Google Data Studio.
Like Google Sheets, Calc, the spreadsheet software that’s part of LibreOffice, is a free Excel alternative. You can download LibreOffice to your desktop or laptop and use Calc offline. This platform boasts nearly 300 productivity-boosting features, including a DataPilot to aggregate raw data and a Chart Wizard to create basic diagrams and graphs.
LibreOffice has recently introduced In Calc, a dropdown widget that replaces its previous Sum tool to provide users with shortcuts to their most frequently used functions. If you’re looking for an alternative to Excel that offers the most bells and whistles for zero investment, Calc is the way to go.
Apple Numbers is a free Excel alternative that comes preinstalled on all Apple devices, from iPhones to Macbooks. The convenient app allows for real-time collaboration with other users and offers a few unique visual options that truly set it apart from the pack. For one, unlike traditional software, Numbers loads as a blank sheet that you can populate with multiple tables. Each table can be customized to the exact width and height needed for your data.
Other unique features include the ability to record, edit, and play audio in a spreadsheet, which is perfect for those using Numbers for project management. Plus, all sheets can be exported as a .xlsx file that can be opened by non-Apple users.
Right on the heels of Microsoft’s Excel came WPS Office, a lightweight, free, and fast office suite that’s highly compatible with Microsoft Office. WPS Office offers three applications, including Writer, Presentation, and Spreadsheets. The Spreadsheets option has a similar interface to Excel, and while it doesn’t process as quickly, it still has a decent amount of features.
You can opt for a free version of the suite, WPS Office Free, or upgrade to WPS Office Premium to eliminate ads and gain more cloud-based storage. Pricing for Premium starts at $29.99 per year per user, which is still considerably cheaper than an Office365 subscription. It’s worth noting that WPS Office offers a free trial for new users, so you can try before you buy.
If you’re searching for an affordable and lightweight alternative to Office365, SoftMaker Office is another option to consider. SoftMaker offers four applications, including TextMaker, PlanMaker, Presentations, and integration with Thunderbird email.
The most practical aspect of SoftMaker, aside from its smaller size, is its preference for using the Microsoft formats .docx, .xlsx, and .pptx as its default file formats to eliminate any compatibility issues.
While SoftMaker Office is available as both a free one-month trial and a one-time purchase of $59.99, SoftMaker FreeOffice is a zero-investment option that’s virtually the same but with some ads.
ThinkFree Office is a web-based office suite that runs on Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS platforms. In addition to being incredibly compatible with existing files, ThinkFree Office also reads and writes in Microsoft file formats like .docx and .xlsx. As far as user experience is concerned, ThinkFree Office has a similar look and comparable functionality to Microsoft’s Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, but has renamed them Hword, Cell, and Show, respectively.
As a web-based platform, ThinkFree Office is collaboration oriented and is an excellent option for teams. However, don’t let the “Free” in ThinkFree fool you. While there is a 30-day free trial, the program begins at $49.99 per year for personal use or as low as $9.99 per year for a mobile version.
Polaris Office is another alternative to Office365. It boasts a small installation package and quick startup speed. Similar to Open365, Polaris Office is fully compatible with Microsoft products but will also load and export PDFs and Google Docs. This is an important consideration for anyone who routinely shares spreadsheets across multiple operating systems, whether web or PC based.
Polaris Office is free to use, to an extent. The platform charges you on a “usage” basis, meaning you can use up to 60 MB per month for free. Beyond that, you’ll be prompted to purchase a plan, which begins at $3.99 per month or $40 per year.
Go beyond streamlining data by creating an expansive database with Grist. An Excel alternative, Grist, much like Numbers, provides a more customizable view than the traditional table layout. However, with Grist, you can populate reports, create custom dashboards, and attach files to organize your data.
In addition to supporting real-time collaboration on spreadsheets, Grist is a great option for those juggling CRM or business management. Similar to Polaris Office, Grist is free, to an extent. A free plan will grant you 10 documents per month with two collaborators per document, while a Team Plan at $8 per month provides unlimited documents and collaboration for a full team.
With more than 350 functions to date, Zoho Sheet is a cloud-based Excel alternative that’s one of the most comparable in terms of features. While its top ribbon isn’t the sleekest, its functions are laid out simply and clearly, which makes it easy to use for all team members.
Zoho Sheet is ideal if you’ll be sharing data with team members or clients internationally. With the ability to toggle between right-to-left page orientation and in 23 different languages, anyone across the globe can feel at home using the platform.
If you’re interested in Zoho Sheet, they offer a free plan for teams of up to 25 users with 5 GB of storage per user. A standard subscription starts at $4 per user per month and tacks on an additional 100 GB of storage, which isn’t too shabby when weighed against the cost of Excel.
If you’re willing to up your price from your current Office365 package, Bime is the cloud-based alternative for you. Founded in 2009 and acquired by Zendesk in 2014, BIME launched as a modern business intelligence tool. BIME aggregates raw data and utilizes AI to compute valuable insights and actionable information that you can use to improve sales, reduce spending, and optimize ROI.
BIME would be the right fit for anyone seeking smart solutions for data analysis as opposed to a sheet that simply stores data. Additionally, the platform boasts Google Analytics, Facebook Insights, and YouTube and Twitter analytics integrations for those tracking return on ad spend. Prices for a base plan begin at $490 per month when billed annually and include two users, 10 dashboard viewers, and unlimited queries, dashboards, and email reports.
QuickBase is more than just an Excel alternative — it’s a project management tool that allows you to integrate all of your services and file storage in one place. QuickBase can be hooked up to Quickbooks, Salesforce, and Bill.com, as well as Dropbox, Google Drive, and more.
As a cloud database software platform, QuickBase combines data management and organization to create a custom dashboard for every user. Allocate tasks, track customers, and monitor expenses, all with the click of a button.
A premier subscription to QuickBase begins at $500 per month, billed annually, and offers up to 50 custom business apps. You can choose to be billed monthly, but the average price per month will increase by $100.
While Excel may have been reigning champ since the 80s, a variety of similar software is waiting to take its spot.