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 probably happened after an extra glass of vino left me feeling frisky…

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 become a writer. Please forgive my patheticness.

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 fulfills 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)
  • I’m working with complex formulas
  • I want to create drop-down lists that are dependent on other drop-down list selections
  • I want more control over the details
  • My spreadsheet needs are quite complex
  • I need to analyze large amounts of data, as Google Sheets’ file limit is 5M cells
  • It’s already open on my Mac
  • I want to create tables that are smart enough to populate formulas throught columns, expand without having to adjust the filters, and are intuitive to format (it’s not as easy to do these things in Google Sheets)
  • I can’t afford to have my spreadsheet lock up or crash on a user
  • I need to use pivot tables that group data by month (Google requires some workarounds)

I use Google Sheets when:

  • I want to access my spreadsheets from my phone without worrying about syncing issues.
  • 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 don’t need to create an exceptionally complex spreadsheet.
  • I want simplicity.

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
  • You want to create “smart” tables that autopopulate and always capture new data when sorting
  • You use pivot tables that rely on grouping data by month

Use Sheets if…

  • You want to share files
  • You want to link to other Google Sheets files
  • You want to edit 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

*Some well-respected and well-known organizations do rely on Google Sheets – particularly when collaboration is expected. My new employer does, and I now spend 95% of my time working in Google Sheets and only 5% of my time using Excel.

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 🙂