Excel is the number one spreadsheet app used now. With online features being integrated regularly into the Excel app in the Microsoft 365 plan and a free online version being available, Excel is one of the most accessible spreadsheet applications in the market.
But other spreadsheet apps are also gaining traction in the market. And you will surely have heard about some of them. Smartsheet is one such app that has been gaining popularity. Smartsheet also advertises itself as an alternative to Excel.
If you are new to working on a spreadsheet app and are looking for an alternative to Excel, you might be looking at Smartsheet. But you may be wondering which is better or which is more suitable for your usage.
This guide will cover the differences between the two spreadsheet applications and end the Excel vs Smartsheet debate once and for all. This guide will also help you decide which one is better for your purpose.
So, why wait? Let’s start the vs battle. But first, let us discuss some basics of Smartsheet and Excel to get you familiar with the two applications.
An Overview of Excel and Smartsheet
In this section, we will give you an overview of the two apps. We will discuss their basics and the purposes of using these two apps. Although Smartsheet comes as an alternative to Excel, many of the two application’s feature list overlap.
Smartsheet is one of the newer competitors of Excel that has been gaining popularity among users. Smartsheet claims that they are an “online work execution platform”. So by Smartsheet’s definition, they are not only limited to a spreadsheet application. Rather Smartsheet boasts to be a platform that caters to better work management, accessibility, collaboration, and work management.
Smartsheet provides a Free 30-day free trial to its users upon registration but there are no free plans for using Smartsheet. But if you are looking for a free alternative to Excel you can look at our Google Docs vs Excel comparison. Smartsheet has various viewing options for displaying data. These viewing options include grids, Gantt, card view for Kanban, and calendar view.
Spreadsheet aims to achieve Microsoft Project’s functions too with its spreadsheet-based interface. Smartsheet also has the ability to automate updates and reports from within its interface. You can collaborate within Smartsheet through its main interface.
Smartsheet is an online platform. And being online Smartsheet has the advantage of being instantaneous. So if you are working with Smartsheet, you can share your work, attach files in real-time and collaborate on files from your team easily.
As Smartsheet is an online platform, one can easily access their work from any device they want. Moreover, Smartsheet files can be shared with an unlimited number of stakeholders. Smartsheet also has added Microsoft 365 integration along with integration for Google, Jira, Box, DocuSign, and other features.
Excel is the most popular Spreadsheet app in the market. Made by Microsoft, this app holds the most market share in the Spreadsheet market.
Excel has led the data industry from 1987 to date. And since its creation Excel has only been updated to include more and more features to help its users and more features are being included in its online plans and with each consecutive software version.
Prior to Microsoft moving its office applications to an online structure, Excel was primarily an offline software. Excel has recently made the upgrade to Microsoft 365, the office software suite of Microsoft along with an offline program included in Microsoft Office. Excel is also available as an online version at https://www.office.com/ with all the online features offered by Microsoft. Excel has Android, and iOS applications too.
Excel boasts of offering a whopping half a thousand features in its offline version. Although the online version of Microsoft 365 has even more features built in for users to work with. This huge list of features makes Excel one of the most powerful pieces of software to date. Excel is also one of the most stable pieces of software in the market and has been the industry standard for ages.
But excel does have some limitations if you are a beginner user of Excel. For example, Excel is limited to only a Grid view and have limited sharing capabilities. But if you are a pro user of Excel you will find that you can do an absurd number of things with Excel.
Excel vs Smartsheets
As we have discussed before, Excel and Smartsheet have a long list of features that overlap each other. But there are some differences that make each of the products unique.
The primary difference that you will notice after entering both Smartsheet and Excel is the default view of the two software. As Smartsheet is more focused on collaboration and project management, its default view is not a grid. Rather you can choose your default view within Smartsheet. Excel has by default more views for you to work with. You can use a Gantt chart view, a calendar view, a kanban board view in Smartsheets.
Here is an example of what Smartsheet offers you while creating a new document.
On the other hand, Microsoft Excel is more focused on being a spreadsheet application and thus offers a more traditional grid view look. Smartsheet boasts this difference as one of the main differences between these two applications.
Which is better? That depends on your personal usage. If you are working on a traditional spreadsheet, you would be more comfortable with the grid view of Excel or that of the Smartsheet app. But if you are managing a project you might be more comfortable with the Gantt or Project assistant view of the Smartsheet.
Pricing is another point of difference between the two applications. Smartsheet offers pricing options only for businesses and enterprises while Microsoft Excel offers pricing for Home, Business, and Enterprises.
Smartsheet provides a 30-day free trial before they charge you. The bare minimum pricing you can get for a pro plan is $7 a month for up to 10 licenses. They also have a business plan for more people with $25. Both of these licensing options are billed annually making the yearly plan $84 and $300 respectively. Here you can see a list of pricing options for Smartsheet.
Microsoft Excel offers an offline pricing option for $150 for one machine. But for its subscription-based planning for Microsoft 365, pricing options for families, and businesses are available.
Here is the pricing plan for family:
And, here are the pricing options for businesses:
As you can see there is a lot of flexibility in Microsoft’s pricing. Also, Microsoft is offering a suite of applications, and cloud storage within this price range.
So, looking at the price differences, although Microsoft’s family option is slightly pricier than Smartsheet’s, Microsoft’s pricing overall is cheaper and much more flexible.
The primary feature that Smartsheet focuses on is its collaborative capabilities. As Smartsheet is a completely online platform it focuses on instant communication. Tracking changes in a shared Smartsheet doc is easy because Smartsheet provides sharing option right on the main screen.
This conversation pane is very handy if you are working in a team. Team members can comment in real-time. If you are a manager, you can also track the progress of your employees directly and give them feedback instantly.
On the other hand in Excel, collaborative features are there, but they are very limited in their own regards. One major factor is that if you want to share an excel sheet you have to store it in OneDrive to share it with someone on your team.
Even if you store your file in OneDrive, the Share functionalities are not intuitive. But, changes made by any other person you gave access to are mostly instantaneous. In our testing, we have seen some inconsistencies if OneDrive failed to sync the file to the cloud.
Another point to consider for collaboration in Excel and Smartsheet is that Excel is already a very accepted tool to use. So most small teams would prefer to work with the tool they already use, which is Excel. On the other hand, Smartsheet is still not widely accepted and used in the industry and it may make data sharing harder between Excel and Smartsheet. Although Smartsheet allows sharing of data between Excel and Smartsheet, it is still not intuitive enough. So we’d suggest you wait some more time before completely switching to Smartsheet for collaboration.
This is another distinguishing feature that Smartsheet advertises where they have trumped Excel. In Smarstheet it is very easy to track the progress of any working project as all of the progress is listed in the activity log which you can find in the right-hand corner.
As you can see, with this you will be able to see what was changed when, and by whom. This makes collaboration and tracking work changes in your file so much easier.
But in Excel things are a bit trickier, and you will get a general history of what edits were done in your cells. To enable this, your Excel sheet has to be shared with someone or have it stored in OneDrive. Otherwise, you will not get the option to review your changes.
If you have an excel file shared with someone, you can head over to the Review tab and click on Show Changes. For this demonstration, we have used Excel Online to show you how to enable this.The process is the same for Excel Offline or Excel in Microsoft 365.
As you can see, the view is similar in Smartsheet and Excel after you have enabled them.
Compatibility is also another point of comparison between the two applications as they have a lot of integrations with first and third party applications.
In Excel, these integrations come in the form of Add-ins featured by Microsoft and third parties. Excel has collaborations and integrations with over 800 applications, making it a tough competitor to beat.
Here is an example of Add-ins for Excel Offline and Micorosft 365.
Excel also offers a similar integration list for Excel online too.
On the other hand, Smarthseet being a completely online application has many integrations too. The service has its own iOS and Android Applications along with a web interface. The application also has integrated functions shared with about 130 professional services. It also has integrations in the form of Add ons.
Below are some examples of such add-ons.
Although Excel has a lot more integrations, Smartsheet boasts that the list of integrations is increasing every day for them and they are integrating the applications much better than Excel does. But this is up for debate as Excel has been around for so long and has a close connection with a lot of applications and companies.
Ease of Use
Another point of comparison that we can give you is how easy it is to use Excel and Smartsheet.
As we have already told you, Microsoft Excel is a traditional Spreadsheet app and will give you just that, a basic spreadsheet view. But don’t let this basic spreadsheet view fool you. Microsoft Excel is one of the most powerful applications if you have the know-how.
When you open a new workbook, you will be presented with an empty canvas like this. From there on out, what you want to do is up to you.
But that’s just it. Microsoft Excel’s interface is simple and it is not welcoming to a new user the first time. Don’t get us wrong, it is not that Excel is not easy to use if you know what you want to do. But if you are new to Excel, it may look underwhelming.
But on the other hand, Smartsheet has a big focus on its looks. As an online platform, Smartsheet is much more modern looking. Smartsheet also holds your hands while it introduces you to the interface.
You can see an example of what to expect when you open an account with Smartsheet.
When you get into the main interface of Smartsheet, it will give you a general overview of the whole interface and what to expect from what option.
In this case, you can call Smartsheet more modern, but not necessarily easier to use than Excel.
Excel is boasted as one of the most powerful data analysis and visualization tools in the world. From its inception, excel often has been undefeated in this field. Excel has several tools at its disposal to visualize and analyze data including shortcuts to complex formulas with which you can easily analyze your desired data. Excel also has automation features to make this task easier.
But Smartsheet also is not far behind and has a lot of features and functions for doing data analysis work. But if you are talking about project management works, Smartsheet may be the better tool to have.
But if you are strictly talking about data analysis and visualization, Excel is still the more powerful app of the bunch. Excel can handle much larger datasets with 1,048,576 rows and 16,384 columns of data. This is equal to a staggering 17,179,869,184 cells!
Which One Should You Choose?
We discussed several points of comparison in this guide. And as you see, in all of these points of comparison there are a lot of similarities between the two apps. But both apps are very powerful in their own regards.
If you are looking for a project management tool, you might be better off with Smartsheet as your go-to application. Because Excel is not primarily a project management software, Smartsheet gets the upper hand here. But be mindful that there is also a lot of project management software out there that you may try out instead of Smartsheet.
But if you are looking into a data visualization tool, you may be better off using Microsoft Excel. As Excel has been around for ages, you will find more troubleshooting solutions if you ever get stuck. You will find a lot of solutions for Excel, whereas you might not find a suitable fix if you face a problem with your data visualization with Smartsheet.
Again, if you are looking into a tool solely for statistical work, or just looking to manage resources, you may use both Excel and Smartsheet similarly.
Our Ending Thoughts
Although there is a big list of similarities between Excel and Smartsheets, there are also a lot of differences. Of the two applications, Excel is definitely better in data visualization and analysis. Although Excel may look underwhelming, if you have the know how it is the more powerful software of the two when it comes to working with large amounts of data,
But, it may be a different case if you are working on a project and are looking for a project management tool you may be comfortable with Smartsheet with its intuitive features and welcoming interface.
But in the end, the ultimate answer to Excel vs Smartsheet battle is that it depends on your use case. If you are looking at a spreadsheet app, Excel should be your go-to, if you are looking at a project planner you can go with Smartsheets. But the perfect application would be a combination between the two with the powerful data analysis ability of Excel with a collaborative hub feature like Smartsheet. Let us know your thoughts on this in the comments.