Google Sheets or Excel: which program should you use? (Hint: why not use both?).For years, I was a die-hard Excel user.

Up until recently, I didn’t even own a Mac, so Numbers was out.

And, I never bothered to learn Sheets because, well, I really didn’t see the point.

knew Excel and it was comfortable.

It was also complex.

In fact, Excel’s complexity used to be its selling point for me.

With Excel, I could do any freakin’ thing I wanted!

But then the lust crept in…

I can’t pinpoint the moment I first cheated on the spreadsheet king.

It was one of those things that probably happened after an extra glass of vino and the frisky feelings that ensued.

Then, what began as a one night stand morphed into a love affair so gargantuan that there was no turning back.

My ménage à trois had spiraled out of control…

…and I found myself pulled uncontrollably deep into the abyss…

So, I don’t read romance novels and given this post, I probably shouldn’t quit my day job to start authoring any. Forgive my patheticness, please.

The purpose of this post isn’t about which one does it better, anyway, because they both freakin’ rock.

The purpose is to help you decide which program best fulfill your needs. Right here, right now.

Today, I’m going to break down the two that I know inside and out: Google Sheets and Excel.

Should you use Google Sheets or Excel? It depends on what you're doing. Here's how I use both.Click To Tweet

When to use Excel vs. Google Sheets

I use Excel when:

  • I am doing client work.
  • I want to record macros (mini programs for repetitive tasks) without having to spend a ton of time troubleshooting scripts (Google Sheets’ version of macros).
  • I’m working with complex formulas because – let’s face it – there are tons more forums for troubleshooting in Excel than there are for Sheets.
  • I want to create drop-down lists that are dependent on other drop-down list selections (it’s so much easier to do this in Excel).
  • I want more control over the details.
  • My spreadsheet needs are complex (Google can handle much of the complexity that Excel can, but it’s not always as straightforward if you learned how to use spreadsheets via Excel).
  • I need to analyze large quantities of data.
  • It’s already open on my Mac.
  • I can’t afford to have my spreadsheet lock up or crash on a user, which keeps happening to me lately while working in Sheets (ugh!).

I use Google Sheets when:

  • I want to access my spreadsheets from my phone. [As I type this, I’m considering the prospect of subscribing to Office, which will allow me to access Excel on my phone, and this will no longer be an issue.]
  • I’m creating things on the fly.
  • I’m working with several files that work in tandem with each other and I want to organize them for intuitive access.
  • I want to share them with others, including my readers.
  • I have a browser open (which is all of the time).
  • I know that I’m going to need to pose my question in a support forum, as Google forums have been super responsive and awesome.
  • I don’t need to create an exceptionally complex spreadsheet.
  • I don’t want to deal with a bazillion choices for everything.

In most cases, either spreadsheet program will work fine. But, if you want to be told what to do, here are some generic recommendations:

Use Excel if…

  • You want wicked functionality
  • You want to appear exceptionally professional
  • You can’t risk glitches
  • You are dealing with a huge amount of data

Use Sheets if…

  • You want to share files
  • You want to edit your files on your phone & don’t have an Office 365 subscription
  • You get overwhelmed by complexity
  • You like the idea of using Google Drive for everything
Okay, so that list isn’t all that mind-blowing. And, lest you attack me for insinuating that Google Sheets isn’t professional, let me clarify that I sell products that are created entirely in Google Sheets (for sale in The Alchemy Shop), as are many of my freebies (including the Instagram hashtag organizer found in this post). It’s just that I have never encountered anyone working for Corporate America who used anything other than the spreadsheet King or super snazzy, expensive platforms like Tableau, so if your objective is to play ball with these guys, you’ll probably want to use the program that they use*. That’s all. The point is to use the program that works best for you, right?

*Psst – they don’t know what they’re missing.*

I’m curious about you. Which spreadsheet program do you use? If you use Apple Numbers and can add to the discussion, it would be seriously rad! Thanks so much for your insights, friends 🙂