- Easy to create spreadsheets with collaboration tools
- Generate custom templates and graphics
- Industry standard for data entry
- Challenging to learn
- No real-time sharing unless using online edition
- User friendliness is lacking
Microsoft Excel is a staple in the traditional office productivity suite. In fact, most workplaces require at least a basic working knowledge of the robust data entry tool. From automatically generated data graphics to thousands of formulas, Excel can be utilized in many settings. However, given the depth and technical knowledge required to work Excel, the tool can be frustrating to use.
Excel, the current version
In its current iteration, Microsoft Excel is a traditional office software with cloud-based features and cross-platform integration. Excel can be launched on most desktops, laptops, netbooks, tablets, and mobile devices so that the tool can be used virtually anywhere.
Excel was built for one purpose: data entry and manipulation. Excel’s spreadsheet workspace and the formulaic programming can help any static database offer insights and accurate totals, summations, estimates, and custom sorts. Even the formulas can be customized to fit the needs of the user’s workbook contents.
All of the data that you input into Excel can also be generated into digestible charts, graphics, and visualizations with the click of the button. These reports and data can also be exported into various file types (.csv, .pdf, .docx, etc.) and are cross-integrated with data and information from other Excel workbooks, Microsoft Word, Powerpoint, Access, and other Office 365 applications.
Other vital features of Microsoft Excel include some of the tool’s predictive and automatic functions. Excel is highly customizable when it comes to inputting macros and formulas, which exist so that data entry can produce insights and “results” automatically.
Collaboration and OneDrive
Unlike Google Sheets, Excel’s collaboration and sharing tools are insufficient. With the cloud-based program supported by G Suite, editing of a workbook can be done in real-time from multiple accounts. Excel, however, has streamlined sharing options via Microsoft’s Sharepoint and OneDrive services. Yet, these “sharing” and collaboration tools still require users to create edits on conflicting copies that must be merged once the file’s backup is loaded.
Real-time editing only occurs when users are working together through the online version of the software.
The notorious Excel learning gap
Microsoft Excel, especially with its current version, is a very complicated tool for beginners and even moderate users. Excel was built with a full loadout of analysis and input features which make it overwhelming, despite at face value, appearing to be just a form with cells. Like most spreadsheet editors, Excel does more than create tables and long lists of seemingly incomprehensible information. Excel is intended to edit entire data universes to produce actionable intelligence.
The only way to bridge this learning gap is through extensive use and training. Luckily, Microsoft offers a knowledge base for the self-taught while external vendors provide training courses for all things Excel.
Microsoft Excel is available through Microsoft’s Office 365 home and business subscriptions. Business subscriptions begin with the basic at $8.30 per user per month (bundled, paid annually) or $9.90 per user (paid monthly). The Office 365 Business Premium plan begins at $12.50 per user, per month (bundled, paid annually) or $15 per user (paid monthly). Business Essentials is $5 per user per month (also annual) or $6 per user (per month). The essentials plans features one license for Excel only. Enterprise pricing is available.
Both the basic and premium plans though offer subscriptions to other Microsoft Office applications. Premium provides more value with a Skype for Business subscription, Sharepoint, OneDrive, and Microsoft Teams, among others.
In comparison, Google Sheets is free for basic Gmail account holders; however, this platform’s premium features are expanded when users enroll in G Suite plans for business and enterprise.
Microsoft Excel, with the full Office 365 suite, is used virtually everywhere. The tool, as previously mentioned, is considered the “industry standard” for spreadsheet and data entry software and it reflects. From its in-depth analysis and input features to its cross-platform integration, Excel is widely accessible for experienced users.
But Excel is notorious for significant learning gaps among its “green” users and can be a very confusing experience starting out.
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