There are a handful of capable, solid spreadsheet apps for Mac, but we've got our money on Excel thanks to its rich feature set, cross-platform (and web) compatibility, and data management tools.
- Create spreadsheets with integrated equations
- Create attractive graphs from your data
- Organise and filter your tables
- Create thumbnail-sized "sparkline" charts for viewing data at a glance
- Visually enhance your data with boards, highlighting, and more
- Automatically summarise your data with PivotTables
- Use VisualBasic to create macros and add additional functionality to Excel
- Use Excel's Automator actions to automate repetitive tasks
- The Excel Web App will let you access your spreadsheets from anywhere
- Comprehensive toolbar with the most commonly-used features
- Easily filter data so you're not distracted by data you don't need to see
Excel is an incredibly feature-rich application, to the point where it can even get a little overwhelming, while still offering simple spreadsheet functionality. If you know how to type data into boxes and perform calculations in any spreadsheet app you know how to do it in Excel. You don't have to dive into anything too deep to perform the most common tasks. Graph and chart creation is also very easy, as those buttons are readily available in your toolbar. While Apple touts the beauty of Numbers, its spreadsheet application (see the competition section below for more information), Excel is highly capable of creating attractive images as well. Overall, it gets the job done whether that job is simple, complex, or even requires a pleasant aesthetic.
Excel is really a spreadsheet app for power users, so it may be overwhelming for some. It's also been around for many years and it's hard to keep adding new, useful features to an app that already does its job well. As a result, Excel has become a little bloated. It can be very overwhelming to new users. Finding what you're looking for can be tough because there is so much there.
Assuming you get past the learning curve, one of the more annoying issues with Excel for Mac is that it's different from Excel for Windows. While the applications are very similar, they're developed by different departments and often the Windows version ends up with features and functionality that aren't present in the Mac version (and vice-versa). The most notable feature to have this problem is macro support. Macro support is finally back in Excel 2011 for Mac, but it has both been added and removed from versions in the past. Missing features can be a minor annoyance for some and a major one for others, so before you jump into Excel on the Mac you should make sure you're getting the features you expect.
Numbers ($21) is Apple's entry into the spreadsheet software market, and it's not bad. Number has always favoured its stylish graphs over its feature set, but that doesn't make it useless. It's a very serviceable spreadsheet application for most people, and is a good option if you don't need something as intense as Excel.
Mesa ($US34) and Tables ($42) are both simple spreadsheet apps that, while very good, are hard to justify because of the cost. These two apps are very focused on offering a basic feature set and remaining focused, rather than becoming bloated software. The result is two very serviceable spreadsheet apps, but you have to wonder why you're paying so much for something that's not quite as capable as some cheaper apps.
Calc (Free) is the spreadsheet app that comes along with LibreOffice and is your best free option for spreadsheet work. It handles everything you'd except, from equations to graphs and more, plus it's capable of handling the Excel document format.
Have a favourite spreadsheet app we didn't mention? Share it in the comments.
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