Spreadsheets

|

January 31, 2021

Your 2021 Guide to Spreadsheets

Microsoft excel icon and sheet.
SECTIONS

1. Uses of spreadsheets

2. Factors in selecting a spreadsheet app

3. A rundown of spreadsheet apps

  1. Number 1: Microsoft Excel
  2. Numbers
  3. Number 1 Alternative: Google Sheets
  4. Zoho Sheet
  5. Quip
  6. Smartsheet
  7. Airtable
  8. Stackby

4. Conclusion

SECTIONS

1. Uses of spreadsheets

2. Factors in selecting a spreadsheet app

3. A rundown of spreadsheet apps

  1. Number 1: Microsoft Excel
  2. Numbers
  3. Number 1 Alternative: Google Sheets
  4. Zoho Sheet
  5. Quip
  6. Smartsheet
  7. Airtable
  8. Stackby

4. Conclusion

Microsoft Excel is still number one.

But that’s not what we want to showcase here. 

We want to give you a 2021 guide to spreadsheets. 

Spreadsheets remain ubiquitous in business settings, and there is a reason that Microsoft Excel still has a lot of competition.

Spreadsheets have now evolved to not just let you input data in a table but also allow you to do data analysis.

More and more cloud-based spreadsheets have propped up in recent years, which includes business-oriented advanced features that Microsoft Excel does not have, such as AI-powered data analysis and integration with e-commerce services.

You should consider these tools to make it easier for you to watch your metrics as your business grows. 

Uses of spreadsheets

Wikipedia defines a spreadsheet as a computer application for organization, analysis and storage of data in tabular form. 

Yep, it’s that simple.

That’s why all spreadsheets look alike: a set of commands and tools on the upper portion of the screen and seemingly-endless rows and columns of cells where you can enter data. 

The apparent simplicity of a spreadsheet masks its usefulness in a wide range of applications. Spreadsheets are used by businesses for the following purposes: 

  1. Data consolidation and storage
  2. Data manipulation and analysis
  3. Data presentation and visualization
  4. Modeling and planning
  5. Accounting and budgeting
  6. Decision-making

(List consolidated from iAcademy and Chron)

As you can see, spreadsheets can be used in almost all stages of the life cycle of data, from data capture to data archival and/or purging. Therefore, we want to make sure that the spreadsheet that we will adopt can be maximized in as many applications as possible. 

What you should look for in selecting a spreadsheet app

Spreadsheets are one of the first applications sold to customers, and its basic features and feel have stayed the same even today. 

Since the main reason for the existence of spreadsheets have also stayed the same, we find a 1992 article on The CPA Journal useful in comparing the existing spreadsheet app today. The factors listed in that article are still considered in selecting the best spreadsheet app:

  • Price - some spreadsheet apps are offered for free! The higher-end ones are optimized for business use and their licences are offered with discounts for bulk orders.
  • Platforms - most spreadsheet apps are available in more than one platform; some are even hosted in a cloud.
  • Ease of use - while most spreadsheet apps contain advanced features that will need a tutorial or two to master, its most basic features should be easily doable by a total newbie in spreadsheets within the first few minutes. 
  • Functions - spreadsheet apps should contain functions for date/time, mathematics, statistics, financial, conditional formatting, and character string.
  • Visualization - spreadsheet apps contain a diverse set of charts that the user can choose from in visualizing the data in the spreadsheet.
  • Add-ons and macros - spreadsheets allow for third-party add-ons and customized scripts to add functions and features not bundled by default with the spreadsheet app.
  • Multi-user collaboration - a lot of spreadsheet apps, especially those hosted in a cloud, allow for several users to edit the same spreadsheet file, enhancing productivity. 
  • Documentation and technical support - users’ errors, bugs, and other issues will arise in any spreadsheet app, so technical support should be available 24/7 and in multiple channels (call, email, forums, etc.)

We will use these factors in making our rundown of the major spreadsheet apps in the market today.

A rundown of spreadsheet apps

We will consider the following spreadsheet apps–both traditional and business-oriented:

  • Microsoft Excel
  • Numbers
  • Google Sheets
  • Zoho Sheet
  • Quip
  • Smartsheet
  • Airtable
  • Stackby

We will use the reviews from Capterra and G2 to present how these spreadsheet apps fare in the factors we have listed.

Number 1: Microsoft Excel

Microsoft Excel is available both in desktop and mobile devices 
Microsoft Excel is available both in desktop and mobile devices. Image source 


The robustness of Microsoft Excel is apparent from the fact that almost every list of the best spreadsheet apps that you can find via Google consistently list Microsoft Excel at the top. 

Put simply, Microsoft Excel is the standard spreadsheet app. 

The table below summarizes some of the important information and features of Microsoft Excel. 

You can read more about Microsoft Excel here.
You can read more about Microsoft Excel here.


Numbers

Numbers is Apple’s response to Microsoft Excel, adding more features and making it free for Apple devices.  
Numbers is Apple’s response to Microsoft Excel, adding more features and making it free for Apple devices. Image source 


Apple’s answer to Microsoft Excel is Numbers. According to Apple’s website, Numbers included features useful for visualization and even the ability to add audio and video and to convert handwriting to text. 

The table below summarizes some of the important information and features of Numbers.

You can read more about Numbers here. 
You can read more about Numbers here. 


Number 1 Alternative: Google Sheets

Google Sheets is the most popular cloud-based spreadsheet.
Google Sheets is the most popular cloud-based spreadsheet. Image source


If Microsoft Excel is the standard spreadsheet app, Google Sheets is the standard alternative to Microsoft Excel. Google Sheets contains most of the basic functions that a spreadsheet app should have.

Google Sheets has two strengths: 

  • It can read and modify Microsoft Excel spreadsheet and export its own native spreadsheets to the Microsoft Excel format
  • You can start using Google Sheets for free if you have a Gmail account

These two strengths boost its place as the standard alternative to Microsoft Excel. 

The table below summarizes some of the important information and features of Google Sheets. 

You can read more about Google Sheets here. 
You can read more about Google Sheets here.


Zoho Sheet

Zoho Sheet is a popular alternative to Google Sheets.
Zoho Sheet is a popular alternative to Google Sheets. Image source


Zoho Sheet is positioning itself as an alternative to Google Sheets. Zoho Sheet is targeting business users through its AI-powered data analysis capabilities (called Zia), automated data cleaning tools, and advanced spreadsheet controls to secure the data from changes.

The table below summarizes some of the important information and features of Zoho Sheet.

You can read more about Zoho Sheet here. 
You can read more about Zoho Sheet here.


Quip

Quip is a spreadsheet combined with a document processor integrated with collaboration tools.
Quip is a spreadsheet combined with a document processor integrated with collaboration tools. Image source


If you are aiming for a cloud-based spreadsheet for your business, you will surely appreciate an app that also allows you to create documents and chat directly with teammates live to collaborate on projects. Quip is one such app. 

The table below summarizes some of the important information and features of Quip.

Learn more Quip here.
Learn more Quip here.


Smartsheet

Smartsheet is another app with tools essential for business project management.
Smartsheet is another app with tools essential for business project management. Image source


Another cloud-based app for business users is Smartsheet. Smartsheet goes beyond the typical features of a spreadsheet to include other tools essential for business project management, such as workflow automation and management, dashboards, forms, and reports. 

The table below summarizes some of the important information and features of Smartsheet.

You can read here to learn more about Smartsheet. 
You can read here to learn more about Smartsheet. 


Airtable

Airtable goes beyond a typical spreadsheet by offering the capability to create an app.
Airtable goes beyond a typical spreadsheet by offering the capability to create an app. Image source


To push the limits of spreadsheet software, Airtable not only combines the capabilities of spreadsheets and databases but also allows you to create apps through a no-code platform that you can use for your specific business needs.

The table below summarizes some of the important information and features of Airtable.

You can read more about Airtable here. 
You can read more about Airtable here. 


Stackby

Stackby is another app that also offers you capability to build your own spreadsheet-based apps.
Stackby is another app that also offers you capability to build your own spreadsheet-based apps. Image source


The table below summarizes some of the important information and features of Stackby.

You can read more about Stackby here.
You can read more about Stackby here.

Conclusion

Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets are the top spreadsheet software in the market. For the most basic business processes, they continue to be the best spreadsheets to use. 

If you want to prepare for growth, however, you should start considering the likes of Quip, Smartsheet, Airtable, and Stackby. They are more business-oriented and have features that businesses need, such as databases and workflow automation. Most of them also follow the no-code philosophy, which means that you can use them to create your own app tailor-made to your specific needs. 

As always, consider what your business needs.

SECTIONS

1. Uses of spreadsheets

2. Factors in selecting a spreadsheet app

3. A rundown of spreadsheet apps

  1. Number 1: Microsoft Excel
  2. Numbers
  3. Number 1 Alternative: Google Sheets
  4. Zoho Sheet
  5. Quip
  6. Smartsheet
  7. Airtable
  8. Stackby

4. Conclusion

Subscribe to get more data and analytics tips!

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.