Tableau vs Excel: When to Use Excel & When Tableau Is Better

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

When it comes to Tableau and Excel, you might find yourself a bit undecided. 

Both are great software for data management. Both can deliver the task. And both have pros and cons.

Depending on what you are trying to accomplish, both platforms can be a blessing and a curse.

So before committing to one, taking a closer look at these two will lead to a more informed decision. 😊

Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto

Let’s get to it!

Microsoft Excel

home page of microsoft excel

Microsoft Excel has been around too long that it became a standard for almost every spreadsheet out there. Excel has provided tons of value for individuals and even businesses. But even a household name like Excel isn’t foolproof.

What we like about Excel

Straightforwardly, Excel is capable of organizing large amounts of data. And with over four hundred features, data management was taken to the next level.

And with its ability to incorporate formula and calculations — crunching numbers almost automatically for you — businesses heavily rely on it.

Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto

Filtering data is also a handy feature of Excel as well. Being able to create recurring reports fast and easy is a great plus for this program.

And since it is the de facto standard of this space, other platforms pay a consideration building their programs to its format. 

Thus, making it easier and more accessible to transfer data from other software, including mobile phones and tablets.

What we don’t like about Excel

Excel does tons of amazing things.

And for it to be able to do all these demands, it has to incorporate tons of features leading to frustration because of a considerable learning curve.

Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto

No wonder why there are more than a hundred books of Excel how-tos

The lack of collaborative tools makes it harder to work together as a team. You have to attach it to an email first before other team members can check on your work. Or set up a common network for all of you which is not possible all the time.

Tableau Software

home page of tableau

Although behind by 16 years against Excel, Tableau isn’t one to be taken for granted. It’s a powerful analytics platform with a focus on collaboration. They boast being designed for ‘individual’ but scaled for the ‘enterprise’.

What we like about Tableau

Tableau prioritizes visualizing information

Making this their number one precedence puts them at the top when it comes to visualizing data. In line with these, they have developed tools to format data in graphical form.

UI/UX is quite impressive as well. Importing data through third-party tools can be done via the drag-and-drop function. Lay users, even those who had a hard time using Excel, will find the ease of use with the careful design interface.

Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto

Besides its functionality, it has a great mobile-friendly UI/UX (User Interface/User Experience) design

There’s a thriving community where you can find support should you stumble upon unfamiliar functionalities. It is a good place to find valuable insights as well.

What we don’t like about Tableau

Most Tableau users would agree that the most obvious downside of using Tableau as your data management tool is its price

Though it is not the most expensive platform out there, you will still have to cash out a good amount of money to enjoy this solution.

Another dominant review is their after-sales support and the lack thereof. You will read in a lot of community message boards that customer service is not their top priority — or at least, that is what their users feel. 

Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto

Reports said that instead of helping customers, they would upsell a feature to solve your problem. Maybe that’s their way of solving it. 

The bottom line is many customers are unhappy about after-sales services.

Excel vs Tableau

So what is it going to be? Excel or Tableau?

To help you decide better, try to answer these questions:

  • What are you trying to accomplish?
  • What is your priority? Data visualization or large data management.
  • What is your budget?

With these in mind, you should be able to make the best decision. 😊

Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto

If you are trying to present a sales or performance report, it will be helpful to showcase this through stunning graphs and visuals which Tableau can provide. Excel can do this as well but inferior to Tableau’s output.

On the other hand, Excel provides a more powerful analytical system for computation and data management. More functionality provides more customization of functions and formulas, allowing you to do more than just basic computation.

If you have more repetitive tasks and reports, Excel is the better solution. However, Tableau offers more collaborative options.

Both Tableau and Excel aren’t free.

Both platforms require payment for their services. Although most of the time, Excel comes pre-installed in the computers you buy, you still have to purchase its license.

But its cheapest price is $69.99 per year and that includes all the Office apps and services.

cost of office365 with excel

Tableau is the more expensive option between the two. Its pricing is quite inflexible as well. 

For team and individual use of this solution, it will cost you $70 every month. It gets cheaper if you enroll more users. Best for teams and organizations.

cost of tableau

Wrapping things up…

Both software is great and not perfect. Both have their strengths and weaknesses. Both have their specialization.

It’s really hard to compare apples and oranges, which in this comparison, is the case. 

Make sure you know what you want the most. List down your objectives. Determine your budget. Make your decision.

Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto