Excel vs. Tableau: Which is Better for What (2024 Guide)

Excel vs. Tableau? Name a more lethal competition.

When it comes to choosing one of these two, you will find yourself in a fix.

Both have extraordinary data management features and are excellent at what they do.

It all boils down to what you expect from the software and the requirement of the situation.

To give you a better insight into their functioning, we will discuss both of these programs in the guide below.

So without further ado, let’s dive right in 🤿


What is Tableau?

Tableau is a data analytics tool that offers new and advanced problem-solving methods. It was released a good one and a half decade after Excel’s launch, but it is no less than its competitor 🙌

Tableau is a powerful data management software that focuses on teamwork and collaboration. It is great for individuals and businesses both – owing to its wide range of functions and features.

You can use it to create a simple inventory of household expenses or track business invoices. It works great for both purposes.

Tableau application for Tableau users

Moreover, this business intelligence software comes with a simple user interface. It offers increased efficiency and navigation. It even gives you complete data insight into the key performance metrics.

All this adds to why you should invest in Tableau as a data analysis tool.

Good things about Tableau

Let’s explore some good aspects of Tableau below.

Data Visualization 

Tableau was primarily created as a data visualization tool. It has a huge variety of features to create graphs and charts. The process is much easier and faster than what Excel offers.

Similarly, its user interface is pretty simple and mobile-friendly. You can easily import data from other websites using the drag-and-drop function.

If you have ever used Excel, you will instantly feel the increased ease of use with Tableau 😃

Handling Large Data

Tableau can hold and store a huge amount of data. Its data handling ability depends upon your device’s hardware. Tableau is also an ad hoc data management software. This makes it the top choice for large organizations and even the data science community.

On a mere average computer, this business software can house over 20 million records. Imagine that on a bigger PC.

Excel, on the other hand, can only store a certain amount of data in a single worksheet. This limits the full potential of Excel and makes Tableau a better option.

Not-so-good things about Tableau

Just like all other fantastic applications, Tableau has its drawbacks too. Let’s see some downsides of this data analysis program below 🚩

Conditional Formatting

Unlike Excel, Tableau does not allow the user to format multiple cells at once. There is no way you can automatically update the formatting of all rows. You have to do it manually and to do that for a hundred rows – it becomes really time-consuming and inconvenient.


Tableau is a good data management software and but its biggest disadvantage has to be its price. Most of the users will agree that its price is a real pain point and could be more cost-effective.

Another common user complaint is customer service. Many Tableau users have reported that the after-purchase customer service is terrible. Even on the whole, customer support is not a great concern for the management at Tableau, and this is a big downside.

Microsoft Excel

What is Excel?

Excel was released decades ago by Microsoft Office. And it is used so commonly that it has become the standard spreadsheet tool to analyze data today 🤗

Excel is usually used to store data. It also helps perform mathematical and logical functions and statistical operations. You can create tables, charts, macros, illustrations, and even your own formulas in Excel.

Excel data spreadsheet tool - data points

Excel is a great tool for everyday use. And it is used by individuals, data analysts, data scientists, and businesses altogether. If you prefer economical yet resourceful spreadsheet software, Excel makes a great choice.

Good things about Excel

Let’s have a look at some features of Excel that are truly unmatched.

Formatting & Organizing

Excel is extremely powerful when it comes to formatting and organizing data. You can change the color, height, width, font, style, and a lot more. Unlike Tableau, you don’t need to apply the formatting to each cell manually.

Excel provides a fill handle that can apply the data formatting to hundreds of rows in a double click only. Similarly, in Excel, you can easily sort data, use flash fill and perform data filtering in seconds 🚀

Functions & Tools

Excel offers more than 400 different functions and features. And you can use different functions to accomplish a single purpose. In fact, Excel is so versatile that even if a function doesn’t exist, you can create it yourself using hacks.

Although Excel has great data blending features, it works best for structured data only. With big data, even some basic calculations can become difficult.

Apart from that, Excel offers a user-friendly interface that is easy to understand and use. Each feature is only a single click away, and entering data is pretty simple 😉

Not-so-good things about Excel

Even though Excel has become a household spreadsheet application at this point, it still has its drawbacks. Let’s discuss them below.

Learning Curve

Excel can be used by beginners, but to use it to its full potential, you need knowledge and research. The essence of Excel is VBA, and you need some know-how of programming knowledge to use it. And to get the maximum juice out of it, you might even need some coding skills.

That’s a huge learning curve. And this makes Excel a static tool for people with insufficient or no prior knowledge.

Limited Security Controls

Excel is great with its features and all, but it has limited security controls. It does not have strong encryption, which puts it at risk of unauthorized access. Even if you lock cells or the entire sheet, the raw data can still be easily breached.

Excel vs. Tableau

Tableau and Excel are both popular and renowned data analysis tools. Each software is good at what it does, and it all comes down to what you want from the program 💻

Before you make any decision, ask yourself:

  • What is your goal?
  • Do you want to perform calculations or create graphical data representations?
  • Can you afford an expensive application, or would you prefer the cheaper alternative?

Once you answer these questions, you will be able to evaluate your choices in a better way.

Excel offers powerful data management features and functions for computation. If your work is centered around recurring reports and calculations, Excel makes a good option.

But if your work is related to creating presentations and stunning graphics, Tableau is the right program for it.

When it comes to Tableau vs. Excel, it’s all your choice and preference. You can use them alternatively for the purpose they best serve 😀

Both these programs require purchasing, but Tableau is incredibly overpriced. You can get Excel and all other Microsoft applications for a $6.99 monthly plan.

Microsoft 365 monthly plan

Or you can make a one-time MS Excel purchase for your PC.

MS Excel one time purchase

But with Tableau, you have to pay $70 per month regardless of whether you’re an individual or a group of people. That’s why this application is best suited to large organizations and businesses.

Tableau pricing plan


Concluding our journey through the distinct capabilities and nuances of Excel and Tableau, it’s evident that each tool shines in its own right, tailored to specific needs and tasks.

Test the trial version of both applications. Determine their pros and cons, review your budget and then make the final decision 🧐

As we wrap up this exploration, it’s worth noting that the quest for the perfect data visualization tool doesn’t end here!

Dive deeper into the realm of data analytics by exploring our detailed analysis of Power BI versus Tableau, where we further unravel the strengths and opportunities of another major player in the field, offering you insights to make the most informed choice for your data visualization needs.

Frequently asked questions

Both programs are excellent in their respective fields. It all depends on what you expect from the software. If your primary concern is visual data representation, Tableau is the best option for you. But if you just want to manage data and perform multi-layered calculations, give Excel a shot.

It is not necessary to use Excel before Tableau. However, it’s a good idea to have some basic knowledge of Excel before you get your hands on Tableau. It will help you get a stronger grip on the software and know what to expect beforehand.