Is Microsoft Excel Going Away?

Table of Contents

Is Excel outdated?

For over three decades, Microsoft Excel has been an essential productivity tool for businesses everywhere. The app became the foundation of lots of business processes. It also aided in financial tasks, statistical calculations, computing, IT projects, marketing, etc.


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Basically, Excel started as an easy-to-use, most versatile, and most essential software for organizing, managing, analyzing, forecasting, and visualizing data. All these made Excel such a hit tool from the start for students, researchers, and business owners.

One of the reasons why this tool is critical to academics, medical, research, and business is its ability to process mathematical equations, create series of what-if scenarios, and store and organize data in manageable and attractive ways.

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However, lots of people are moving away from Microsoft Excel recently in search of other, better, more modernized, and more advanced technologies. This sudden drift away from Excel has raised several pertinent questions, which include “Is Microsoft Excel Going Away?” “Is Excel Going Away?” “Is Excel Outdated?” “Is Excel Still In Use or It Is Becoming Obsolete?”

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This post seeks to provide answers to these questions as well as other questions related to Microsoft Excel. This post also considers why Excel is still relevant and some alternatives to Microsoft Excel.

Is Excel Going Away?

No, Excel is not going away. While the use and demand for Excel seem to be fading away, the app is still very useful and cannot be obsolete – not in this generation. According to a recent article published in the Enterprise Times, over 60% of businesses in the US alone still rely on the use of Excel while only 21% are moving toward alternative software.

This statistic is enough fact that Excel is not dying or becoming obsolete and is still very much in use. Nevertheless, this is not a denial that Excel doesn’t have its inefficiencies. In fact, the numerous inefficiencies of Excel in this current world of increasing innovation and technology account for the 21% drifting away from Excel in the US.

While Excel is still very much in use, its usage has been drastically declining among businesses, especially in the financial sector. Most businesses in the financial sector are moving away from Excel for the following reasons:

  • Excel is prone to error

One must be very careful and watchful when entering data in Excel as there are always potentials for errors, especially when using functions and formulas. These errors are not acceptable in the financial world as a small error can have a major impact.

For instance, Fidelity’s Magellan Fund fell victim to a particularly embarrassing and costly error. They estimated that they would make about $4.32 per share, which later turned out to be false. It turned out that when the accountant was entering figures into Excel, he accidentally omitted the minus sign on a net capital loss totaling $1.3 billion, in turn greatly overestimating the value per share.

Another victim was TransAlta. TransAlta experienced a relatively minor error that cost them over $24 million in losses. The costly error was traced back to nothing more than a simple cut and paste mistake in Excel, but that tiny mistake cost them a tremendous amount of capital.

Error is the main problem with Excel. Though humans are prone to manual errors, these errors on Excel can have a crushing impact on finances. Many other businesses have fallen victim to Excel’s fatal errors and this has left devastating effects on the finances of these businesses.

  • Excel has low visibility

One of the reasons why Excel is prone to errors is its low visibility. Lots of errors go undetected on Excel due to its visibility, which is so poor. When it comes to catching errors, visibility is key. Excel offers a one-dimensional framework which adds to its poor visibility.

  • Excel is tedious

Excel is tedious when it comes to calculating equations, modeling “what-if” scenarios, and handling other complex financial tasks. Excel relies heavily on lots of manual data entry and handles most of its calculations in a lengthy and tedious way. This is not only time-consuming but also full of hassle.

This increasing financial risk is driving most companies away from using Excel for corporate processes. This subsequently makes Excel look like it is going away.

More so, the growing complexities of the financial world are making Excel look outdated. When Excel was first launched, handling revenue, financial management, and planning business finances are not as complex as they are today. However, all these are now complex than ever before.

Financial planning and management are increasing, variables are prevalent, more government regulations and oversight are evolving, trade demand is increasing, and there is an increasing need for complex calculations and conversions. All these place pressure on businesses and make financial management increasingly challenging. As a result, most businesses went in search of improved methods of managing financial allocations accurately and efficiently.

  • Excel Has A Convoluted Nature

Another reason why businesses are turning away from Excel is because of its convoluted nature. Foremost, Excel documents are sometimes difficult to share and organize and when it comes to data compilation, users have to sift through numerous spreadsheets to find what they are looking for – this is a difficult and sloppy task.

Vineet Virmani from LiveMint stated that some of the problems with Excel are that the formulas can be difficult to read, formatting can be haphazard, the multiple tabs tend to lead endless confusion, and the graphs are unattractive and can be misleading.

Although some see all these as a minor issue, those whose work relies heavily on the use spreadsheet do not take this lightly but considers Excel as being frustrating and inefficient.

  • Earlier Version Of Excel Lacks Collaboration

Finally, Microsoft Excel is mainly offline software used on individual computers. As innovation and technology increase, there is a need for collaboration and it became a challenge for Excel users to easily collaborate with their team in real-time or access their Excel files from anywhere.

Although the email system was in operation as at then, sending and receiving files generally via emails can get confusing. There would always be lots of renaming and memorizing of file names to be sure which file is the right one.

As cloud-based excel alternative surfaced with better and real-time collaboration ability, more businesses ditch Microsoft Excel to embrace of the excel alternatives. Although recent versions of Excel have the collaborative ability, it is not as streamlined as the alternatives and more businesses had already adopted Excel alternatives. This contributed to the reasons why Excel seems to be going away. 

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Will Excel Be Replaced

Although Microsoft Excel is manual and many other software programs look better and offer lots of new capabilities, Excel cannot be replaced, and here are the reasons why:

Excel Is Incredibly Flexible

Excel is basic and incredibly flexible, especially when you know how to use it. Office 365 and Excel 2019 are loaded with impressive features that make the software more useful and easier to use. Most organizations use Excel because of its flexibility and ease of use.

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For instance, if you need to compare two data sets, you can easily do this with the vlookup function, conditional formatting, and a filter. With a pivot table, you can quickly and easily summarize your data sets across days, weeks, months, years, countries, costs, centers, etc.

If you want to stay up to date with contracts, the IF function, and conditional formatting functions are there for you. More so, these latest versions of Excel have new and great features, such as SWITCH, IFS, TEXTJOIN, CONCAT, MAXIFS, MINIFS, etc. these features also include new data types and new Funnel chart.

Excel is not only flexible but also does a great job of analyzing data in lots of ways. Nevertheless, Excel is not meant for complex calculations. Excel was never intended to function as accounting software or complex statistical tool despite the new and great features loaded in the new versions.

Just because Excel can handle all these calculations in the basic form doesn’t mean that it is meant for such calculation. Excel is primarily meant for data capture and data cleaning but because most users don’t know the importance of using normalized data, they end up setting up data sets incorrectly, which will subsequently limit what can be done with Excel.

Hence, most faults on Excel are not really Excel’s fault but the users’ faults.

While Microsoft Excel may not completely go away or become obsolete entirely because of its relevance and ability to still provide lots of essential functions to businesses, it’s evident that it can be replaced for some functions.

Currently, Excel is at least making its long-foreseen departure from the world of finance although its relevance is still felt in the academic, medical, and research world. Coupled with its poor collaborative ability, it’s obvious that Microsoft Excel no longer provides the necessary solutions that most modern businesses need in this present world.

As a result, most businesses are now more dependent on better and more efficient software applications that provide enhanced accuracy and agility. Luckily, there are a lot of alternatives to excel for large data sets.

Most of these excel alternatives are even free and cloud-based, making it possible for your whole team to easily collaborate in real-time and access Excel files quickly from anywhere. Here are some of the several Excel alternatives available (most of these alternatives share similar front-end with Excel but more powerful back-end):

Google Sheets: This is Google’s trends in Excel. It is the closest and most popular alternative to Microsoft Excel. It is also very similar to Excel both in appearance and functions. Just like Excel, it offers timesaving features like graphs and charts, built-in formulas, pivot tables, and conditional formatting. Google Sheets is available to anyone who has a Google account free of charge.

Google Sheets store all your files automatically in the cloud so you need not worry about backing up your files. You can easily access your files from almost anywhere as long as there is Internet access. More so, you can share your files easily with multiple users and allow them to either edit it or not. This facilitates collaboration as a team can work on a file simultaneously.

This app has great compatibility with Microsoft Excel. That means you can easily convert Excel files to Google Sheets files and vice versa.

Apache OpenOffice: This is an offline productivity office software suite just like Microsoft Office Suite. It is an open-source software suite for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, databases, etc.

The Excel alternative in Apache OpenOffice is “Calc.” Although it functions very well as a data analysis tool, it performs better with smaller data sets. It doesn’t require an Internet connection to function and is free to use. Calc files can be easily read on other common office software packages.

Being open-source software, it can be modified to suit different needs.

Office 365: This is also a product from Microsoft and is more like an internal competitor to Microsoft Excel. Just like the Microsoft Office Suite, Office 365 is a suite of online office software – more like an online equivalent of Microsoft Office Suite. It is available to anyone with a Microsoft account for a subscription fee.

Office 365 has additional features and can open, view, and edit all documents created in Microsoft Excel. Being a cloud-based app, files are saved on the cloud and can be easily accessed from anywhere as long as there is an Internet connection. This also allows for collaboration with team members in real-time.

Worksheets can even be downloaded to your computer for offline work and later uploaded from your computer to the app.

Zoho Sheet: This is also is a spreadsheet app that provides operational support for both small and medium-sized businesses. Its appearance and functionalities are very similar to those of Microsoft Excel and it’s available for free.

With Zoho Sheet, users can easily switch between formats such as .xlsx, .xls, .csv, and .ods. Users can also use the app to open files on their computer or import a sheet from an URL. Just like Google Sheets, Zoho Sheet is cloud-based as well as its storage. Files can be accessed from any device and anywhere with an Internet connection and this makes real-time collaboration with the team possible.

LibreOffice: This Excel alternative is free open-source software. It was derived from the original Apache OpenOffice and share similar features. It is a useful online office suite and can function on several computing platforms, such as Windows, macOS, Linux, etc.

Though it lacks Excel’s extensive formatting capability, it offers features like text to columns and pivot table like Excel.

Bime: Bime is a timesaving, convenient, and user-friendly alternative to excel for large data sets.  It helps to analyze, visualize, and present data by integrating information from various sources and creating custom metrics, reports, and dashboards.

Although this Excel alternative was not created to deliver all the features and functions of Microsoft Excel, it offers a better alternative to Excel’s data visualization capabilities like charts and graphs with more bells and whistles. Bime is a cloud-based software with a subscription fee starting from US$490 per month.

ThinkFree: ThinkFree Office Online is also a suite of web-based office apps like a word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation software. It is compatible with Microsoft Office and enables users to create and edit files within the web app and collaborate with others in real-time.

With ThinkFree, users can also create, view, and edit documents on their mobile devices.

Numbers For Mac: This is Apple’s answer to Microsoft’s Excel. It is free spreadsheet software usable on Mac only. This Excel alternative is great for visualizing small data sets and turning them into pleasant and attractive presentation-ready graphics.

This app also comes with lots of pre-installed templates and supports a comprehensive range of data analysis capabilities. It can be used on iPhone or iPad. That means users can easily access their documents from their mobile devices and collaborate with other team members. Users can save their files in Excel formats for team members that use Microsoft Excel.

PlanMaker: This free Excel alternative from FreeOffice 2016 is fully compatible with Microsoft Excel. That means users can easily transfer files to and fro MS Office. In fact, it has a similar interface to that of Excel but loads faster.

PlanMaker offers features like pivot tables, conditional formatting, etc. that works very much like Excel. It also offers features like graphics and drawings, as well as data visualization tools, to help you create presentation-ready materials.

EtherCalc: This is free web-based spreadsheet software that runs on Windows, Mac OS X, FreeBSD, and GNU/Linux. It is an open-source spreadsheet program. Like Google Sheets, users can save data on the web, grant editing permissions and have changes reflected for all users in real-time.

Although EtherCalc is not a full-featured spreadsheet program, its functionality makes it one of the simplest spreadsheet applications for collaboration.

Quip for Teams: If your whole team is trying to coordinate on a new budget or want to comment on the numbers, it’s difficult to store and find those comments in a single Excel document. However, Quip lets your whole team operate and manage spreadsheets together, eliminating the need for cumbersome attachments. It doesn’t lack the power either—it has over 400 functions.

Other Excel alternatives include SPREAD32, Sheetster, Calligra Sheets, Calligra Sheets, Siag, etc.

As stated above most cloud-based spreadsheet software embraces Excel as a front-end, but is equipped with advanced and powerful data analysis tools on the back-end. This allows for multidimensional modeling of what-if scenarios that provide enhanced visibility to reduce oversights and errors common in Excel.

With cloud-based spreadsheet software, businesses can avoid many of the pitfalls of Excel. These cloud-based apps also provide a single platform for managing financial data, so users no longer have the chore of managing and organizing an innumerable number of spreadsheets.

Cloud-based spreadsheet software enables businesses to automate a lot of their data entry, so the propensity toward errors can be drastically reduced. In turn, businesses can also increase efficiency by reducing the painstaking process of manual data entry.

Of all Excel alternatives, Google Sheets is the closest and most popular. It is also very similar to Excel. So Excel users will not have any issues switching to and using Google Sheets. Google Sheets is very compatible with Excel as Excel files can be easily uploaded to Google Sheets, opened, edited, and downloaded back to Excel format. Even documents created in Google Sheets can be saved in Excel format and downloaded for easy accessibility on PCs.  

All these interesting features, coupled with the great real-time collaboration and ability to grant editing permissions and have changes reflected for all users in real-time, make Google Sheets seems more powerful than Excel.

While both Google Sheets and Microsoft Excel have a similar appearance, calculations, and functionalities, both are not a perfect substitute. The choice between Google Sheets and Excel is based solely on individual preferences and requirements.

The major difference between Excel and Google Sheets is that Google Sheets provides online storage, real-time collaboration, and links to files, which can be shared with others with permission to read and/or edit the document. Whereas, only one person can edit a file at a time in excel.

The major differences between Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets


Microsoft Excel

Google Sheets


Microsoft Excel must be purchased and Office 365 comes with a subscription fee of $8.25 per month.

Google Sheets is free for use. However, additional features come with a business subscription of $5 per month. Users can get a discount by paying per year.


Compared to Google sheets, Excel isn’t a favorable application for collaboration.

Compared to Excel, Google sheet is a preferred application for collaboration.

Tool for Statistical Analysis and Visualization

Excel is the superior product in the case of statistical analysis & visualization since many formulas are built-in Microsoft excel.

If you want to create a chart on Google sheet-like Gantt or flow charts in Excel, you need to do it manually.

Seamless and easy to use

Excel is easy to use but you need to save the file manually.

In the case of the Google sheet, you don’t need to save the sheet manually. It will be saved on Google drive automatically.

Usage of macros

Excel is now similar to the Google sheet in using the macro.

Google sheet has brought macro and become a strong contender.

Offline Access

Microsoft Excel works perfectly offline and can be automatically synced via OneDrive.

Although offline access is available for Google Sheets, you need to install an offline extension to be able to work on files extensively offline. More so, the extension doesn’t work correctly at all times and users would always have difficulty accessing files they previously created while online.


So is Excel outdated and going away? No, Excel is not outdated and is going away not even with the latest Excel 2019 and Office 365 versions. Excel is here to stay and is improving. However, Excel lacks some necessary features and functionalities needed to handle the growing complexities of today’s business and financial sectors.

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This makes most people and businesses drift away from using Excel. Basically, Excel is not completely a statistical, accounting, or finance app. However, when used for its original purpose, Microsoft Excel is still a very useful tool. The integration with OneDrive allows for online storage and syncing while Office 365 offers easy collaborations just like Google Sheets.  

In a nutshell, Microsoft Excel is still a useful productivity app and is standing tall. However, it needs to focus more on meeting the need of today’s business and financial world and to compete with Google Sheets soon.

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Luis Gillman
Luis Gillman

Hi, I Am Luis Gillman CA (SA), ACMA
I am a Chartered Accountant (SA) and CIMA (SA) and author of Due Diligence: A strategic and Financial Approach.

The book was published by Lexis Nexis on 2001. In 2010, I wrote the second edition. Much of this website is derived from these two books.

In addition I have published an article entitled the Link Between Due Diligence and Valautions.

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure that the information published on this website is accurate, the author and owners of this website take no responsibility  for any loss or damage suffered as a result of relience upon the information contained therein.  Furthermore the bulk of the information is derived from information in 2018 and use therefore is at your on risk. In addition you should consult professional advice if required.