The kinds of features you need from your spreadsheet application can vary, though many users never come close to needing the robust features of Microsoft Office’s Excel.

For those who aren’t accountants crunching numbers daily, Microsoft Office, including Excel, can be prohibitively expensive. You’re looking at paying at least $6 per month for one business license, paid in full for a year upfront; $6.99 a month for home use; or $159.99 for an Office Home and Student 2021 license.

SEE: Explore these free alternatives to Microsoft Word.

If you don’t have that kind of money, don’t need all of Excel’s features or simply want to save cash, there are plenty of viable alternatives to Microsoft Excel available in the cloud to be installed on your computer. Best of all, these alternatives to Excel are free.

Top free Microsoft Excel alternatives comparison

SoftwareBest forOnline collaborationSupported file formatsOffline editingStandout feature
Google SheetsOffline editing and collaborationYes.xlsx, .xls, .xlsm, .xlt, .xltx, .xltxm, .ods, .csv and .tsvYesSharing and collaboration
Zoho SheetAutomationYes.xls, .xlsx, .xlsm, .tsv, .csv, .ods and .sxcNoAI-powered insights
Microsoft Office Excel OnlineUsers who prefer the traditional Excel desktop interfaceYes.xls, .xlsx, .xlsm, .xlsb, .csv and .odsYesPower BI integration
Apache OpenOffice CalcCustomizationNo.odf and .xlsxNo — users have to download it on their system manuallyNatural language formulas
LibreOffice CalcBroader featuresNo.xls and .xlsxUsers can download and install it on their systemScenario manager
WPS Office SpreadsheetsEase of useYes.lsm, .xltm, .xlsb, .ets, .et, .ett, .xls, .xlsx, .xlt, .xltx and .csvYesData analysis and visualization
GnumericUnix-based system usersNo.xls (partially supports .xlsx), .csv, xml, tsv, .gnm, .tex, .html, .htm, .wk1/.wks and moreUsers can download and install it on their systemSupport for complex data manipulation tasks
Apple NumbersApple device usersYesxml (xlsx), csv, tsv and pdfYesXLOOKUP functionality helps you find values in columns and rows or look for exact, approximate or partial matches

Google Sheets: Best for offline editing and collaboration

Google Sheets logo.
Image: Google

Google Sheets is Google’s cloud-based answer to Microsoft Excel, and it’s capable of doing the vast majority of what the average Excel user needs. It’s also hosted in the cloud and runs in a web browser, so it’s platform independent and can be run on Windows, macOS and Linux systems.

You never have to worry about losing a single calculation, either — Google Sheets saves everything in Google Drive, making a crashed computer of no concern to your important data. As with Google’s other office tools, Sheets features real-time collaboration that allows multiple users to edit a document at the same time. Users can see the cursor position of other people in the document, see what they’re doing as they’re doing it and chat right in the document window.

Key features Google Sheets

  • Offline editing capability.
  • Support of file formats, including .xlsx, .xls, .xlsm, .xlt, .xltx, .xltxm, .ods, .csv and .tsv.
  • Data analysis and visualization.
  • Sharing and collaboration.
  • Version history feature, which lets you see all the changes you and others have made to the spreadsheet or revert to previous versions.
  • Template gallery.
Google Spreadsheet interface.
Figure A: Google Spreadsheet interface. Image: Google Workspace
Ability for users to download their files in different formats, including .pdf, .html, .ods, .xlsx and .tsvLags when working on large data
Ability for users to automate repetitive tasks with macrosDifficult to pinpoint who edited the spreadsheet
Real-time collaboration

Why we chose Google Sheets

Google Sheets allows multiple users to work on the same spreadsheet simultaneously. This makes it easy to collaborate with colleagues, classmates or friends in real time without the need to email multiple versions back and forth.

Zoho Sheet: Best for automation

Zoho Sheet logo.
Image: Zoho

Zoho Sheet is a spreadsheet software that includes collaboration, data visualization and automation features that help teams get work done faster. Zoho Sheet supports several file types, including Excel (.xls), .csv, .ods and .tsv formats to move your existing sheets into Zoho Sheet easily.

Collaboration in Zoho Sheet is easy, with real-time updates at the sheet level for any users in the document. You can use macros and even VBA code to automate updates and speed up work.

Collaborators can use data cleaning to catch mistakes quickly or roll back to a previous iteration with version history. Additionally, Zoho Sheet can easily be used via the mobile app or published to the web with granular controls over embedded data manipulation.

Key features Zoho Sheet

  • Multi-language support, including Polish, Bulgarian, Dutch, Chinese (Simplified), German, English, Spanish, French, Croatian, Turkish, Japanese, Hungarian, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Swedish and Italian.
  • Support for over 350 predefined functions.
  • Ability for users to export .html and .pdf formats.
  • Custom and user-defined functions.
  • Image-to-sheet feature, which allows users to scan books, receipts and invoices and automatically convert them to spreadsheets.
Zoho Sheet example.
Figure B: Zoho Sheet example. Image: Zoho
AI-powered insights.Lacks data connections, analysis and modeling capability.
Data cleaning — duplicates, inconsistencies and missing value removal.Lacks offline support.

Why we chose Zoho Sheet

We chose Zoho Sheets due to its extensive automation capabilities and data processing features, such as data cleaning and AI-powered analysis. The tool enables users to analyze their data, create charts and pivots, automate data processing and build interactive spreadsheets with ease.

Microsoft Office Excel Online: Best for users who prefer Excel's interface

Microsoft Office Excel Online logo.
Image: Microsoft

Not to be outdone by Google, Microsoft has created its own online version of Office, which includes a stripped-down version of Excel that’s closer to Google Sheets than to the desktop version of Microsoft Office’s Excel. It’s not to say that Excel Online is unusable or not worth your time — it’s definitely more like Excel than Google Sheets, so if you prefer a familiar interface, you may opt for Excel Online instead of going the Google route.

Recommending Excel Online to the average Excel user is fine: It does all the basics of the desktop version while adding automatic cloud saving in OneDrive, and it has real-time collaboration tools that Office 365 and Office 2019 lack.

Excel power users may want to steer clear of Excel Online. Many of the features Excel power users rely on are gone, restricted or read-only — there’s no VBA scripting, no creating external data connections, no find and replace and no advanced charting features. All of those capabilities exist in Excel Online, but they’re read-only.

Key features Microsoft Office Excel Online

  • Power BI integration.
  • Support of many file formats, including .docm, .docx, .pptm, .pptx, .xlsm and .xlsx.
  • Copilot in Excel, which works with you to analyze and explore your data.
  • Ability for users to visualize data in charts and graphs.
A look at Microsoft Office Excel Online.
Figure C: A look at Microsoft Office Excel Online. Image: Microsoft
Extensive range of functions and formulas, which enable users
to perform complex calculations and data analysis easily.
Gets slow when working with large data sets.
Macros to automate regular tasks.Requires internet connectivity.
Collaboration capability.

Why chose Microsoft Office Excel Online

Excel Online includes many of the same features as the desktop version of Excel, such as formulas, charts and formatting options. Users can also work on Excel documents simultaneously with others in real-time, making it a useful tool for teamwork and collaboration.

Apache OpenOffice Calc: Best for customization

Apache OpenOffice Calc logo.
Image: Apache

When I talk to Windows users who hate the look of Microsoft Office’s post-2007 interface, I always recommend Apache OpenOffice. Calc, OpenOffice’s Excel alternative, looks and feels like Office 2003, which is great if you’d prefer a time before the Office ribbon. Prior to the advent of the cloud and the dominance of Google’s online office tools, OpenOffice reigned supreme among those looking for a free Microsoft Office alternative.

Apache OpenOffice’s Calc serves various userbases, including freelancers, large enterprises, midsize businesses, non-profits, public administrations and small businesses.

Key features Apache OpenOffice Calc

  • Natural language formulas, which allow users to create formulas using words.
  • Ready-made templates repository.
  • Scenario manager with support for “what if” analysis.
  • Ability for users to export documents in various formats, including ​​.pdf, .odt, .doc and .html.
Apache OpenOffice Calc interface.
Figure D: Apache OpenOffice Calc interface. Image: Apache
Available as open source.Lacks real-time online collaboration.
Custom backgrounds to enable users to create
spreadsheets according to individual preferences.
Needs to be updated more frequently.

Why we chose Apache OpenOffice Calc

Apache OpenOffice Calc is similar to Microsoft Excel and offers a range of features, including formulas, charts and functions. It provides users with the ability to create and manipulate spreadsheets for tasks such as budgeting, financial analysis and data organization.

LibreOffice Calc: Best Excel alternative for features

LibreOffice Calc logo.
Image: LibreOffice

Like OpenOffice, LibreOffice is a free office suite that includes its own Excel alternative, also called Calc. It has the same restrictions as OpenOffice in that LibreOffice’s Calc lacks cloud support and real-time collaboration. What LibreOffice does have is a surprisingly robust list of features, many of which aren’t present in Excel.

LibreOffice has more functions than Excel, can compare two separate spreadsheet files, has more cell formatting options and can even handle imports of legacy spreadsheets from retired applications formerly available on Windows and macOS (Microsoft Works, Lotus 1-2-3, BeagleWorks, Claris Resolve, etc.).

Key features LibreOffice Calc

  • Scenario manager that allows “what if …” analysis.
  • Ability for users to export to .pdf.
  • Desktop apps for Windows, macOS and Linux.
A view of LibreOffice Calc.
Figure E: A view of LibreOffice Calc. Image: LibreOffice
Open source.Has limited macro recording abilities.
Ability to read .xlsx files created with Microsoft Office
for Windows and macOS.
Lacks the ability to display many advanced types of charts.

Why we chose LibreOffice Calc

We selected the tool due to its advanced features and cross-platform compatibility. LibreOffice is available on multiple operating systems, including Windows, macOS and Linux, making it a versatile option for users of different platforms.

WPS Office Spreadsheets: Best Excel alternative for ease of use

WPS logo.
Image: WPS

When it comes to robust features that are a true competition for Excel, WPS Office Spreadsheets cannot be beaten, and with good reason: It’s the only freemium product on this list. WPS Office is a paid product, but it comes with a fully featured free version with one catch — it’s ad-supported.

Don’t let that turn you off from giving WPS Spreadsheets a try. The ads are quick, generally lasting about 10 seconds and only pop up when you try to print, save to PDF or use some of its other more specific tools. Once you watch an ad, that feature is unlocked for 30 minutes. If you decide you want to get rid of the ads in WPS Office, you need to pay $5.99 for one month, $9.99 for three months or $29.99 a year.

Key features of WPS Office Spreadsheet

  • Data analysis and visualization.
  • Templates to manage charts, track budgets and analyze personal or business finances.
  • Compatibility with common file formats such as .xls, .xlsx, .xlsm, .xlt and .csv.
  • Ability for users to edit Excel files on mobile devices, computers or web pages.
A look at WPS Office Spreadsheets.
Figure F: A look at WPS Office Spreadsheets. Image: WPS
Compatibility with office suites such as Microsoft Excel,
Google Sheets, LibreOffice Calc and OpenOffice Calc.
Free version has ads.
Support for 13 languages on
PC and 46 languages on mobile.
Infrequently freezes.

Why we chose WPS Office Spreadsheet

WPS Spreadsheets offers features that are not available in Excel, such as protection at different levels, allowing you to secure your spreadsheets with passwords and encryption to ensure data privacy and security, OCR (converting text in pictures to editable text) and multiple tabs for working on different sheets within the same window.

Gnumeric: Best for UNIX-based operating system

Gnumeric logo.
Image: Gnumeric

Gnumeric is a free and open-source spreadsheet program similar to Microsoft Excel. It is part of the GNOME office suite and is designed to provide advanced data analysis and manipulation features.

Gnumeric offers a wide range of features for creating, editing and analyzing spreadsheet data and supports various file formats for compatibility with other spreadsheet software. It is known for its mathematical functions, statistical analysis tools and support for complex data manipulation tasks.

Key features of Gnumeric

  • Import and export support for the OpenDocument Format (ODF) and Office Open XML (OOXML).
  • Capable of handling large datasets and complex calculations.
  • It’s compatible with various file formats, including Microsoft Excel files and OpenDocument.
Gnumeric example.
Figure G: Gnumeric example. Image: Gnumeric
Handles large spreadsheets with ease.Some users may find the user interface of Gnumeric less intuitive or polished compared to other spreadsheet software like Excel.
Gnumeric supports a wide range of file formats for importing and exporting data .Initial learning curve.

Why we chose Gnumeric

Gnumeric offers many features and functions, including support for complex mathematical formulas, data analysis tools and advanced graphing capabilities. Users can easily perform calculations, manipulate data and create professional-looking charts and graphs.

Apple Numbers: Best for Apple device users

Apple Numbers logo.
Image: Apple

Apple Numbers is a spreadsheet application developed by Apple as part of their iWork productivity software suite. It is available for iOS, iPadOS and macOS and allows you to create and edit spreadsheets.

Apple Numbers provides you with predesigned templates to help you get started quickly. It offers a variety of tools for organizing and analyzing data, including charts, graphs and tables. You can also add text, images and multimedia to your spreadsheets to create more engaging and informative documents.

Key features of Apple Numbers

  • It enables users to find trends with pivot tables.
  • Users can highlight comparisons with radar charts.
  • XLOOKUP functionality helps you find values in columns and rows or look for exact, approximate or partial matches.
Apple Numbers interface.
Figure H: Apple Numbers interface. Image: Apple Numbers
Intuitive and modern interface design.Limited to the Apple ecosystem.
Easy to use.Limited features.

Why we chose Apple Numbers

Apple Numbers is designed to work seamlessly with other Apple products and services, such as iCloud, iWork and Apple Pencil. This integration allows easy sharing, syncing and accessibility across different devices and platforms.

Choosing a free alternative to Microsoft Excel

While all the tools outlined in this guide are note-worthy free alternatives to Microsoft Excel, the best option for you depends on your specific needs and preferences. If you need a solution to enable you and your team to seamlessly collaborate on sheets, choose Google Sheets. If you’d like to automate repetitive processes, Zoho may be your best option.

Those looking to customize their sheets and integrate them via API with their existing system fare would benefit from Apache OpenOffice calc. WPS Office Spreadsheet is ideal for individuals or companies more interested in usability, while LibreOffice is the best option for those looking for a feature-rich solution. If you are a huge Microsoft Excel fan and only need cloud capability or prefer the desktop Excel interface, Microsoft Excel Online is the best option for you.

To select the best option for you, consider your needs, select the top three tools that stand out for you, evaluate their features and capabilities and choose the tool that fulfills your needs and use cases.


To determine the best free Excel alternatives, we compiled a list of popular spreadsheet software available for free. We assessed each alternative based on key criteria such as user interface, features, compatibility with Excel files, collaboration tools and customization options. We also considered factors like ease of use, speed, reliability and customer support.

We then test each spreadsheet software by creating and editing sample spreadsheets, importing and exporting Excel files and exploring advanced features such as macros and pivot tables. We gathered and analyzed user reviews and ratings from reputable sources to gain insights into the overall user satisfaction and feedback on each Excel alternative.

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