Excel for Mac vs Excel for Windows – Pros & Cons (2020)

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

Microsoft Excel has been working great for both Windows and Mac.

Over the years, Microsoft has updated Excel for Mac so it would be (almost) comparable to its Windows version.

But if you’re a heavy user and you have tried using Excel on both operating systems, you must’ve noticed a few differences between them. 😨

Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto

Ideally, you have to use Excel for Windows if you’re a power user.

In this article, you’ll learn some of the differences between Excel for Mac and Excel for Windows.

Let’s get started!

No true pivot charts

In Excel, you can use a built-in feature called “Pivot Tables” that will allow you to create a table of your data and choose what data to show and how you would like to display it.

It’s a very powerful and useful feature that we can’t help ourselves but create a more than 7,700-word guide about pivot tables.

And yes, this feature exists on Excel for Mac as well.

Unfortunately, its partner — pivot charts — doesn’t. 😞

In simple terms, pivot charts allow you to visualize your pivot table instantly.

Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto

It’s a chart with an added functionality of being a “pivot”. Like a pivot table, a pivot chart is interactive and will allow you to manipulate what data to be shown.

On Mac, you could insert a regular chart and make it behave like a pivot chart by changing the fields in the pivot table fields list.

Hence, Excel for Mac has no true pivot charts.

Missing Power Pivot

If you don’t use Excel for business intelligence (BI) purposes, you may not be familiar with Power Pivot.

According to Microsoft, Power Pivot is…

“…an add-in for Microsoft Excel 2010 that enables you to import millions of rows of data from multiple data sources into a single Excel workbook, create relationships between heterogeneous data, create calculated columns and measures using formulas, build PivotTables and PivotCharts, and then further analyze the data so that you can make timely business decisions without requiring IT assistance.

Power Pivot is part of Excel BI features that will enable you to handle big data analytics. It’s also known as DAX or Data Analysis Expression Engine.

Microsoft Power Pivot for Excel

Until now, Excel for Mac still doesn’t have any Power Pivot functionality.

There’s been a request for it since 2017 but there’s no update yet whether or not Microsoft has any plans on putting one of Excel’s Mac counterpart.

Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto

You can still open files that contain pivot tables with source data based on the Excel Data Model. But there will be no filters available.

Lesser VBA integration

VBA, short for Visual Basic for Applications, is a programming language made by Microsoft.

Most Microsoft Office software programs include the VBA language, though it’s primarily associated with Excel.

VBA is the language you use to develop programs or macros on Excel (although you can also record a simple macro instead of coding it). 🙂

Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto

The good news is…Excel for Mac supports VBA.

The bad news is…it’s not that great.

For one, the VBA editor on Excel for Mac isn’t as awesome as its Windows counterpart.

You will not be able to find the “Properties” window. You also can’t develop any user forms using VBA.

If you write a lot of VBA programs, hate to be the bringer of bad news, but you also can’t import or export your codes collection easily.

Suffice to say, Excel for Mac does support VBA. But it’s not as functional as with Excel for Windows.

Wrapping things up…

In short, better use Excel for Windows if you plan on using Excel for big data tasks and macros.

Excel is natively designed for Windows so all of its crowning features can only be found on its Windows version.

If you’re only using Excel for its spreadsheet function and formatting interoperability, you should be fine with Excel for Mac.

Otherwise, you will have to use solutions like Paperspace or Parallels Desktop that will enable you to use Excel for Windows using a Mac device.

Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto