Apple Numbers vs. Excel: A Comprehensive Comparison For Your Needs

November 3, 2023 4.7K views

In the world of spreadsheet software, Apple Numbers and Microsoft Excel reign supreme. Yet, choosing between the two can be a daunting task, given their distinct features and capabilities. Is Apple's simplicity or Excel's robustness better suited for your needs? This article aims to dissect these applications, providing a comprehensive comparison to help you make an informed decision.

Part 1: Introduction

Apple Numbers and Microsoft Excel are two of the most popular spreadsheet software applications available today.

Apple Numbers, developed by Apple Inc., is part of the iWork productivity suite alongside Keynote and Pages. It's known for its intuitive interface and visual appeal, making it a favorite among Mac users. Numbers offers a unique approach to spreadsheets, focusing on flexibility and ease of use, with a strong emphasis on graphical and visual representation of data.

On the other hand, Microsoft Excel, a component of the Microsoft Office suite, is a powerhouse in the spreadsheet software market. Since its inception in 1985, Excel has been the go-to tool for many businesses and individuals for data analysis, financial modeling, and much more. Its robust functionality, extensive features, and widespread compatibility make it a versatile tool for a variety of complex tasks.

Apple Number

Apple Numbers is a spreadsheet application that forms an integral part of Apple's iWork productivity suite, alongside Keynote and Pages. Developed by Apple Inc., it is exclusively designed for macOS and iOS devices, ensuring seamless integration with other Apple software and services.

Features of Apple Number include:

  • Easy Collaboration: Apple Number allows users to collaborate on spreadsheets in real-time, making it ideal for teamwork and remote work environments.

  • Beautiful Templates: The software offers a wide array of visually appealing templates that make it easy to create professional-looking spreadsheets.

  • Interactive Charts: Apple Number provides an extensive collection of chart options, enabling users to visualize data in a captivating and informative manner.

  • Seamless Integration: Being an Apple product, Number seamlessly integrates with other Apple applications like Pages and Keynote, facilitating a smooth workflow.


Excel is a powerful spreadsheet software developed by Microsoft as part of the Microsoft Office suite. Unlike Apple Numbers, Excel is not platform-specific and offers compatibility with a variety of operating systems, including Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS. This cross-platform compatibility makes Excel a versatile tool that can be used in diverse environments.

Features of Excel

Let's explore some key features that make Excel stand out:

  • Advanced Formulas: Excel offers a wide range of powerful formulas and functions, allowing users to perform complex calculations and data analysis.

  • PivotTables: PivotTables are a standout feature of Excel, enabling users to summarize and analyze large datasets effortlessly.

  • Data Visualization: With Excel's extensive charting capabilities, users can create visually appealing charts and graphs to present their data effectively.

  • VBA Macro Support: Excel supports Visual Basic for Applications (VBA), a programming language that enables users to automate tasks and create custom solutions.

Apple Numbers:

  • Apple Numbers is Apple's spreadsheet application, part of the iWork suite, designed for macOS and iOS devices. Here are some of the notable features of Apple Numbers:

  • Intuitive User Interface: Numbers offers a clean and user-friendly interface, making it relatively easy for new users to pick up and for existing users to navigate.

  • Flexible Canvas: Unlike traditional spreadsheet applications, Numbers allows users to create multiple tables on a single canvas, making it easier to work with different sets of data side by side.

  • Interactive Charts: Users can create a variety of charts, including column, bar, pie, and scatter, among others. These charts can be interactive on iOS devices.

  • Collaboration: Numbers supports real-time collaboration, allowing multiple users to work on a document simultaneously, whether they're using a Mac, iPad, iPhone, or a PC.

Microsoft Excel:

  • Diverse Capabilities: Excel boasts an extensive range of sophisticated tools, from intricate formulas and pivot tables to comprehensive data analysis features.

  • Versatile Use Across Platforms: Excel seamlessly operates on multiple platforms, such as Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS.

  • Unmatched Data Analysis Strength: With unparalleled data analysis functionalities, Excel remains a top pick for enterprises and data enthusiasts.

  • Automation and Customization: Through its support for VBA and macros, Excel empowers users to streamline operations and tailor the software to specific requirements.

  • Recognized Industry Standard: The prevalent adoption of Excel in the corporate realm underscores its significance in numerous sectors.

Part 2: Usability and Interface

Apple Numbers Usability

Apple Numbers is known for its user-friendly and intuitive interface, which is designed with a focus on simplicity and aesthetic appeal. Here's a brief overview of its usability:

  • Clean and Intuitive Interface: Apple Numbers features a clean, visually appealing layout with easy-to-navigate menus.

  • Consistent User Experience: For users familiar with the Apple ecosystem, the interface of Numbers will feel familiar and consistent across devices.

  • Ease of Use: Apple Numbers is designed with simplicity in mind. Even for those new to spreadsheet software, getting started with Numbers is straightforward.

  • Interactive Elements: Numbers also offers interactive charts and graphs, making data visualization a breeze.

Excel Usability

Excel provides a powerful yet complex interface that caters to users with diverse needs, from basic spreadsheet tasks to advanced data analysis. The application offers extensive customization options, allowing users to tailor the interface to their preferences. Excel's interface may appear overwhelming for new users, but it provides unparalleled flexibility and functionality.

Part 3: Compatibility and Cross-Platform Support

Apple Numbers Compatibility

Apple Numbers is Apple's spreadsheet application, part of the iWork suite, which also includes Pages (word processing) and Keynote (presentation software). It's designed primarily for macOS and iOS devices, but there's also a web version available via iCloud.

Excel Compatibility

Microsoft Excel is one of the most widely used spreadsheet applications, and it's part of the Microsoft Office suite. Given its popularity, many other spreadsheet applications, including Google Sheets, have made efforts to ensure compatibility with Excel.

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Part 4: Best Alternative —— WPS Office

WPS Office is a comprehensive office suite that offers applications for word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations. It's developed by Kingsoft, a Chinese software company. WPS Office has gained popularity as an alternative to Microsoft Office and other office suites due to its free version and compatibility with MS Office file formats.

Here are some of the pros of WPS Office:

  • Cost-Effective: WPS Office offers a free version with a good range of features, making it an affordable alternative to other premium office suites.

  • Cross-Platform: It's available for various platforms, including Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, and Android.

  • Compatibility: WPS Office boasts high compatibility with Microsoft Office file formats, ensuring that documents, spreadsheets, and presentations can be opened and edited without major formatting issues.

  • Intuitive Interface: The user interface is quite similar to the older versions of Microsoft Office, which can be beneficial for users who are accustomed to that layout.

  • Rich Features: Even the free version comes packed with a lot of features that cater to most of the basic and intermediate office needs.

  • Cloud Integration: WPS Cloud allows users to save documents directly to the cloud, facilitating easy access from any device.


Q1:Can I open Excel files in Numbers?

Yes, you can open Excel files in Apple Numbers. When you import an Excel file into Numbers, the file is converted to Numbers format so you can edit and work on it. Here are the steps to do so:

  • Open Numbers on your Mac.

  • Click on "File" in the menu bar, then select "Open...".

  • Navigate to the location of the Excel file you want to open.

  • Select the file, then click "Open".

Q2: What is the Apple Numbers row limit?

Apple Numbers supports up to 1,000,000 rows and 1,000 columns per table. However, the actual number of rows and columns you can use effectively may be less, depending on the complexity of your data and the capabilities of your device.


While both software applications have their strengths, the choice between Apple Numbers and Excel largely depends on the user's specific needs and the environment in which they'll be used. For users seeking a simpler, more intuitive interface, Apple Numbers may be the better choice.

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15 years of office industry experience, tech lover and copywriter. Follow me for product reviews, comparisons, and recommendations for new apps and software.