You have a few choices when it comes to making spreadsheets, but if you're going beyond the basics, we think Microsoft Office is the most feature-filled, easy to use, and compatible program around.
- Create spreadsheets with integrated equations
- Create attractive graphs from your data
- Organise and filter your tables
- Create thumbnail-size "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
- The Excel Web App will let you access your spreadsheets from anywhere
- Comprehensive ribbon 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 certainly the most feature-filled spreadsheet program out there, and fits the bill both for casual and experienced users alike. You can do everything from simple data organisation to complex calculations, graphs and script macros that perform repetitive tasks for you. The ribbon toolbar makes it easy for anyone to jump in and start using Excel, and its graphs are pretty good looking to boot. And, while we hate for it to be a factor, Excel is by far the de facto standard for spreadsheet creation, which means if you want compatibility with XLS and XLSX files, you'll want the real deal instead of a clone.
Excel can feel overwhelming once you start to delve into its advanced features, since there are so darn many of them. But, if you're just using its basic functionality, it's pretty easy to use. Also, it's far from cheap at $209 for a single licence, but it's a necessary evil.
Calc, LibreOffice's answer to Excel, is more than good enough if all you need is a basic spreadsheet. When it comes to more advanced features, however, Excel does it better, and has more of them. It's also a good deal faster than LibreOffice, and unfortunately, LibreOffice still has some issues in the compatibility department. If you use Excel at work or anywhere else, you pretty much need to use it at home too — compatibility between the two isn't as good as with LibreOffice's word processor offerings.
Google Docs is your other big choice for spreadsheet creation, and while it may feel weird to do it in a webapp, it's probably your best choice for simple spreadsheets, if only because it's the fastest free option out there. LibreOffice is a bit slow, but definitely more feature-filled — so depending on the project, you'll have to make a choice between the two if you aren't splurging for the Microsoft Office suite. Google Docs is simplistic, but still has some nice features like chart creation, support for equations, and other basic things you've come to expect from spreadsheet applications.
There aren't a ton of other spreadsheet apps out there for Windows, but if you have a favourite we didn't mention, be sure to let us know about it in the comments below.
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