Excel Online vs. Excel: The Pros and Cons

Written by co-founder Kasper Langmann, Microsoft Office Specialist.

Microsoft Excel Online is a good alternative if you need a semi-powerful Excel. 

But how does it compare to Excel’s desktop app? Is it sufficient for your needs?

This is a rather interesting comparison, but it’s a comparison we have to make.

In this article, we’re going to pit traditional Excel with its online version.

Exciting, right? Let’s get into it! 😊

Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto

What is Excel Online?

Now, we’re all familiar with Excel, but many don’t know that there is an online version of it! 😎

Excel Online is a slimmed-down version of the traditional Excel. It works pretty much the same as Excel we all get used to but with just a few pros and cons which we’re going to talk about further into this article.

Although this is not exactly the same as the all-powerful spreadsheet that is Excel, there are great resemblance and familiarity with it.

Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto
home page of microsoft office excel online

Notable Features (Pros):

  • Familiar user interface. You don’t have to make a big of an adjustment if you get used to doing your work on Excel.
  • Native-format compatible. This means whatever file type you save online can be run in your desktop version of Excel.
  • Greater collaboration as it is cloud-based.

Missing Features (Cons):

  • Exclusively Internet-dependent. This means that you can’t edit your data offline. Unless you download it and make an offline copy.
  • Lacks many features that the desktop counterpart has. 
  • Popular File types cannot be integrated.

Knowing all of these things about Excel online, we’re ready to see if this a better choice against its desktop version.

The Face-Off

So now, we’re going to tackle both their pros and cons, their strengths and weaknesses, and their selling points and deal breakers.

With those in mind, let’s break down which version of Excel is better.

For this comparison, we looked at the following:

  1. Price
  2. Features
  3. Collaboration
  4. Accessibility
  5. Data storage


This one goes to the online version.

Excel Online is FREE while it’s traditional version costs $129 for you to install it to your workstation.

Excel Online is basically Microsoft’s answer to Google Sheets. So if you’re familiar with how Google Sheets works, that’s basically what Excel Online is: a free web-based platform.

Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto

All you have to do is go to Excel Online’s portal and sign-up for a Microsoft account or log in if you already have one.


With hands down, this one goes to the traditional Excel. 

Many have tried to compete with Excel’s features and functions but many have not caught up to the decades of research and development the conventional Excel has gone through. Not even its online version.

As mentioned above in Excel Online’s Pros and Cons, many fans noticed that there are many functions that exist in Excel that Excel online doesn’t have.

Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto

As of right now, there are still many features that Microsoft hasn’t integrated with Excel’s Online version.

If you’re an advanced Excel user, this is 10 steps backward for you, isn’t it?


Both earn a point but with a caveat on the conventional Excel.

Without OneDrive, Excel Online would be a better choice. It will limp when we talk about collaborative features without OneDrive on the picture.

The only way to collaborate with the traditional Excel before OneDrive came is to send the file(s) through email and make changes. Then send it back to whoever you’re working with.

Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto

It’s like playing ping-pong sending emails back and forth until you get it right which is time-consuming.

If you have an Excel, subscribe to OneDrive now! It will make your Excel experience exponentially better.


This one is a little bit tricky. So we’ll just give both a point as we can’t settle who’s the winner in this category.

Here’s the deal: 

Excel Online is technically built to compete with Google Sheets accessibility and collaboration prowess. 

But imagine this, what if you don’t have a wifi connection or it’s very slow? Excel Online’s dependence on the internet can be a two-edged sword. It can create an opportunity or stress.

On the other hand, if you are just working offline and you save your workbook on your personal computer or an external hard drive as backup, this could mean more access but with limited collaboration without OneDrive.

Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto

Data Storage

We give this one to Excel (desktop version) easily.

This is a major choke point for the free Excel Online as it has a very limited storage capacity. If you’re working on a big project, Excel Online is not the Spreadsheet for that.

Meanwhile, on the desktop version, since it’s an offline version, your saving device would be your computer’s memory, a thumb drive, or an external hard disk which could range from a couple of gigabytes to a thousand of it. Plenty enough to handle quite large amounts of data.

Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto

But, not all hope is lost, getting a OneDrive plan can boost your data storage exponentially.

Wrapping things up…

Although both Excel and Excel Online came from the same mother developer, both cater to different users with different spreadsheet needs.

Here are some questions you might want to ask yourself in considering which version you better for you to use:

  • What’s your budget?
  • What’s your goal for this project?
  • How complex is this project?
  • How big is this project?
  • Are you working alone or with a team?

Setting a clear goal for a worksheet project can help find which Excel version suits your needs better. There’s no perfect spreadsheet but you can switch between the two depending on your priorities and tasks. 😊

Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto