Difference Between Excel and Spreadsheet [A Complete Guide]

January 15, 2024 3.6K views

You can effectively manage and organize your data thanks to advancements in technology. Automation has become a key aspect, making it possible to handle most tasks efficiently. Although spreadsheets provide convenience, some beginners may mistakenly associate Excel as the entire spreadsheet solution. In this article, we will delve into the key distinctions between Excel and spreadsheets and highlight the significance of understanding this difference between Excel and spreadsheet.

Difference Between Excel and Spreadsheet

What is a Spreadsheet?

In simple terms, a spreadsheet is primarily designed to store numerical data and brief text entries. Within a spreadsheet program, the individual spaces that contain data are referred to as "spreadsheet cells." These cells can be customized with labels to accurately represent the contained information and can be easily cross-referenced using row numbers and column letters.

A single spreadsheet can serve as a worksheet, gathering data for a specific purpose, or multiple sheets can be combined to form a complete workbook.

Each cell in a column or row corresponds to a specific value and is identified by its location, such as A1, A2, A3. Data can be exported as a CSV (Comma-Separated Values) file, allowing it to be imported into other software or vice versa. Some common features found in many spreadsheet applications include:

  • Functions

  • Computations

  • Statistical analysis

  • Formatting

  • Storing, manipulating, and analyzing data

  • Searching, sorting, and calculating data

  • Using data in a variety of charts and graphs

  • Doing a variety of calculations

  • Seeing data for a single date or a single time range rather quickly

Role of Spreadsheets in Daily Life

A common misconception is that spreadsheets are exclusively tools for business professionals. In reality, anyone, regardless of their background, can harness their capabilities effectively. For example:

  • Budgeting and Financial Planning: Spreadsheets are excellent for managing personal finances. You can create a budget spreadsheet to track income, expenses, and savings, helping you stay on top of your financial goals and make informed spending decisions.

  • Grocery Shopping Lists: Spreadsheets allow you to create and organize grocery lists. You can categorize items, set quantities, and even calculate costs, making your shopping trips more efficient.

  • Meal Planning: Plan your meals and recipes using spreadsheets. You can list ingredients, organize menus, and keep track of dietary preferences, ensuring that your meal planning is both nutritious and convenient.

  • Event Planning: When organizing events, spreadsheets help you manage guest lists, RSVPs, budgets, and schedules. You can use them to coordinate everything from weddings to birthday parties with ease.

  • Fitness and Health Tracking: Keep tabs on your fitness journey and health goals. Spreadsheets allow you to record workout routines, diet plans, and track your progress over time.

  • Home Inventory: Use spreadsheets to maintain a record of your household inventory. This is handy for cataloging possessions, tracking warranties, and managing insurance information.

  • To-Do Lists and Task Management: Spreadsheets can serve as task lists to organize your daily activities and deadlines. You can prioritize tasks, set due dates, and mark them as completed as you go along.

  • Academic and Study Tools: Students can utilize spreadsheets for assignments and study schedules. You can create study timetables, grade trackers, and even analyze academic progress.

  • Travel Planning: When planning trips, spreadsheets can help you keep a tab on itineraries, expenses, and packing lists, ensuring a smooth and organized journey.

  • Hobby and Collections: If you're a collector or enthusiast, spreadsheets can be used to manage and track your collections, whether it's stamps, coins, books, or other hobbies.

  • Home Renovation and DIY Projects: When working on home improvement projects, spreadsheets are handy for creating project plans, material lists, and cost estimates.

  • Chores and Cleaning Schedules: Maintain a chore calendar to distribute household tasks among family members. Spreadsheets can help keep everyone accountable for their responsibilities.

  • Job Search and Application Tracking: Organize your job search efforts with spreadsheets. You can keep a record of job applications, interviews, and follow-ups, ensuring you stay on top of your job hunt.

Excel: A Microsoft Product

Microsoft Excel, or commonly referred as Excel is a specialized spreadsheet application that offers an extensive range of features and capabilities beyond the basic functions of a typical spreadsheet.

Excel allows users to create, edit, and manage spreadsheets with enhanced tools for data analysis and manipulation. It offers a rich set of functions and formulas to perform complex calculations, making it suitable for financial modeling, data visualization, and statistical analysis. Excel also enables users to create charts and graphs to represent data in a visually appealing manner.

Microsoft Excel interface

One notable feature of Excel is its ability to support macros, which are recorded sequences of actions that can be replayed to automate repetitive tasks. This automation capability is a significant advantage for users dealing with large datasets and complex calculations.

In Excel, users can work with a vast array of data formats, including numbers, text, dates, and even images. It also offers advanced data sorting and filtering options, as well as the capability to connect to external data sources and databases.

Use of Spreadsheets in Excel

  • Project Management: Excel can serve as a basic project management tool, helping you create Gantt charts, set milestones, and monitor project progress.

  • Gradebook and Academic Tracking: Teachers and students use Excel to maintain gradebooks, calculate GPAs, and organize academic records.

  • Sales and Customer Relationship Management (CRM): Excel is used to track sales leads, customer information, and interactions. It's a helpful solution for small businesses without dedicated CRM software.

  • Human Resources: HR professionals use Excel for employee record-keeping, payroll processing, and creating schedules.

  • Data Visualization: Excel's chart and graph creation capabilities are widely used for presenting data visually, whether for business reports or educational purposes.

  • Real Estate Analysis: Real estate agents and investors use Excel for property analysis, mortgage calculations, and investment projections.

  • Scientific Research: Researchers often employ Excel for data collection, analysis, and graphing in fields such as biology, chemistry, and physics.

  • Marketing and Social Media Metrics: Marketers track campaign performance, website analytics, and social media metrics using Excel.

  • Event Planning: Excel assists event planners in managing guest lists, schedules, budgets, and logistics for events of all sizes.

  • Personal Health and Fitness: Individuals use Excel to monitor fitness progress, record workout routines, and track dietary intake.

  • Recipe and Meal Planning: Excel can be a useful tool for organizing recipes, planning meals, and generating shopping lists.

  • Travel Itineraries: Travel enthusiasts can create detailed itineraries, budget breakdowns, and packing lists in Excel.

Free Alternatives to Excel

WPS Spreadsheet

WPS Spreadsheets is a lot like Microsoft Excel – it looks and works the same way. You can open, create, and edit spreadsheets just like in Excel, and even save your work as a PDF or in various Excel formats.

WPS Spreadsheet interface

WPS Office is a full-fledged office suite that's great for small and large businesses. It lets you create, edit, share, and organize word documents, presentations, and spreadsheets. Plus, it has a handy built-in PDF editor for your convenience.

Main Features

Certainly, here's the information categorized into 8 points for clarity:

  • Compatibility: 100% compatible with Microsoft Excel. It supports XLS, XLSX, and CSV files

  • Data Analysis: Includes tools for merge calculations, categorization, summarization, and Pivot Tables

  • Integration: Integrates seamlessly with Google Drive, allowing cloud-based file saving and synchronization

  • Sharing: Features a sharing tool for document sharing across various mobile devices

  • Storage: Comes with free cloud storage, offering up to 20GB of storage space

  • Templates: Provides access to a template library for document creation

  • Viewing: Allows the viewing of multiple documents simultaneously

  • Saving: Enables easy document saving in PDF format


Pricing plan of WPS Office include as:

  • Premium: $3.99 per month

  • WPS Template Premium: $5.99 per month

  • WPS Pro: $3.99 for one month, $18.99 for 6 months, and $29.99 for 12 months


9.5 (Trust Radius)


  • Ease of Use: Users appreciate the user-friendly interface and find WPS Office Spreadsheet easy to navigate.

  • Beautiful Interface: The software is praised for its visually appealing design.

  • Data Upload Convenience: Users value the ability to upload data directly from spreadsheets, simplifying data management.

  • Multi-Platform Availability: WPS Office Spreadsheet is accessible on various platforms, including Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS.

  • Pre-Loaded Templates: The software offers a selection of pre-loaded templates for presentation slides, making document creation more efficient.

  • Document Sharing: WPS Office facilitates easy sharing of documents with others, enhancing collaboration.


  • Poor Visualization Sector: Some users find room for improvement in data visualization capabilities.

  • Document Security Needs Improvement: Document security features are considered to be lacking and require enhancement.

Google Sheet

Google Sheets is a compelling alternative to Microsoft Excel, offering a versatile spreadsheet tool. It's a part of the free, web-based Google Docs Editors suite, and you can access it through a web application, mobile app (available for Android and iOS), or as a desktop application on Google's ChromeOS. The best part is, Google Sheets seamlessly works with Microsoft Excel file formats, making it a convenient choice for all your spreadsheet needs.

Google Sheet interface

Main Features:

  • Spreadsheet Editing and Formatting: Google Sheets offers robust editing and formatting tools for creating and modifying spreadsheets with ease.

  • Data Visualization: It allows users to create interactive charts and pivot tables for effective data visualization.

  • Machine Learning-Based Features: Google Sheets employs machine learning for tasks like data entry and cleaning, improving efficiency.

  • Offline Editing: You can work on spreadsheets without an internet connection, with changes syncing when online.

  • Compatibility: Google Sheets is compatible with various file formats, including Microsoft Excel.

  • Google Product Integration: Seamless integration with other Google products streamlines data sharing and collaboration.

  • Collaboration Features: Real-time co-editing and commenting facilitate efficient teamwork.

  • Security: Google Sheets employs strong security measures to protect your data and spreadsheets.


Google Sheets offers free access for individual use. For businesses, there are three paid plan options:

  • Basic Plan: $6 per user per month

  • Business Plan: $12 per user per month

  • Enterprise Plan: $25 per user per month


8.6 (Trust Radius)


  • Easy Data Organization: Users find it very easy to automatically organize information in Google Sheets.

  • Flexible Row and Column Movement: Google Sheets allows users to effortlessly move rows and columns by simply dragging and dropping.

  • Formatting Options: It provides user-friendly formatting options to suit different task requirements.

  • Collaboration: Multiple users can edit documents in real-time, enabling effective teamwork.

  • Customization: Users can customize the appearance of their pages, rows, and columns.

  • Data Visualization: Offers chart creation and visual representation features for improved data presentation.


  • Sorting Issue: Users have encountered sorting issues where data doesn't always arrange in the expected numerical order.

  • Conditional Formatting Clunkiness: Conditional formatting is considered clunky and lacking in flexibility.

Benefits of Using WPS Spreadsheet

Thus far, it's clear that WPS Office excels as an office suite. Its spreadsheet tool goes beyond mere competition with Excel; it elevates the game significantly. What's even more intriguing is its ability to seamlessly integrate with Excel, opening up a world of possibilities that surpass initial expectations. From advanced features to collaborative capabilities, WPS Office provides a comprehensive and versatile solution for diverse user needs. Whether you're working on complex data analysis or simply seeking a more efficient way to manage spreadsheets, WPS Office has more to offer than meets the eye.

Some additional benefits WPS Office users share are:

  • Comprehensive Features: WPS Office offers a comprehensive set of features that cater to various needs, from basic spreadsheet tasks to advanced data analysis.

  • Ease of Use: Users appreciate its user-friendly interface, making it accessible to both beginners and experienced professionals.

  • Cost-Efficient: WPS Office provides cost-effective alternatives for businesses, allowing them to achieve their goals without breaking the bank.

  • Real-Time Collaboration: With real-time co-editing and collaboration features, it fosters teamwork and ensures that everyone is working with the most up-to-date information.

  • Enhanced Productivity: WPS Office streamlines workflows and boosts productivity, offering tools like templates, advanced formulas, and cloud storage.

  • Data Security: It takes data security seriously, with options for encryption and access control to safeguard sensitive information.

  • Cross-Platform Accessibility: Users can access their documents and spreadsheets from various devices and platforms, ensuring flexibility and convenience.

WPS Office- Free All-in-One Office Suite
  • Use Word, Excel, and PPT for FREE, No Ads.

  • Edit PDF files with the powerful PDF toolkit.

  • Microsoft-like interface. Easy to learn. 100% Compatibility.

  • Boost your productivity with WPS's abundant free Word, Excel, PPT, and CV templates.

5,820,008 User
Algirdas Jasaitis


Q1. Is WPS Spreadsheet compatible with Excel files?

WPS Spreadsheet is fully compatible with Excel files. You can effortlessly open, revise, and save Excel files without facing any compatibility concerns. It supports the most commonly used file formats, including Excel's original .xlsx format. This smooth compatibility makes working with Excel files straightforward when using WPS Spreadsheet.

Q2. Can I collaborate with others in real-time using Google Sheets?

Yes, you can collaborate with others in real-time using Google Sheets, which is an incredible tool for collaborative work. However, I also suggest considering the WPS Spreadsheet for your collaborative requirements. WPS Spreadsheet provides various features that can improve productivity, such as a rich template store, comprehensive functions, and support for online documents. These features make WPS Spreadsheet a strong option for your collaborative spreadsheet tasks.

Q3. How can spreadsheets be used in daily life?

Spreadsheets are essential tools for daily life and have various applications. They can assist you in tracking your finances, budgeting, managing inventories, constructing shopping lists, and organizing belongings. You can record your income and expenses in a spreadsheet that you make. Hence, they are versatile tools for organizing data.

Empowering Data Management: Excel, Spreadsheets, and the WPS Office Advantage

As we discuss the difference between Excel and Spreadsheet, it is evident that they are  closely intertwined in the world of data management. Excel is a prominent spreadsheet tool within the Microsoft Office suite, and stands as a benchmark in the industry. Spreadsheet and Excel are the same, technically, where its leading competitors, such as Google Sheets and WPS Office, are also formidable spreadsheet tools in their own right. These tools have solidified their positions by offering impressive features and user-friendly interfaces, making them popular choices for diverse data-related tasks.

Among these contenders, WPS Office shines as an outstanding option. With its robust features, intuitive design, and compatibility with Excel, it's an exceptional choice for a wide range of users. To experience the power of WPS Office for yourself, why wait? Download it now and witness the difference in your spreadsheet endeavors.

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