Microsoft Excel is one of the industry standards for use in the workplace and at home, with over 1 billion devices running Office. Office, and particularly Excel, has been under active development for 30 years now, with a the full release a massive 27 years ago. With the sponsorship from most PCs running Windows, Office is a massive platform which tends to dominate the market, but does that mean Excel is the best at what it does?

All of Microsoft PC based products have a massive advantage over any newer products or services; they have been around for almost as long as home computers. This has many advantages over other, related services such as OpenOffice and LibreOffice; people trust the brand, most people know how to use Excel, and the infrastructure is already in place to use Excel.

Depending what a business is doing, there are likely better alternatives to Excel out there, but for a rounded, easy to learn package, Excel is king. Sorting a few billion line CSV file may be best suited to run in Ron’s Editor (free open source with paid option), but it can still be done in Excel, albeit taking slightly longer.

Similarly, a living document such as a personnel roster or correspondence record may be best used with Google Docs, with their native syncing and device compatibility. But this can still be done with Excel, and as a result, most people still do.

Even something which initially made Excel famous, its graphing function, is second class to a few other programs. Origin works with massive data sets in sub second speeds, and comes with more customizability and tweaking than Excel. Even Sigmaplot is a worth opponent to Excel, where their graphs takes milliseconds to produce.

All of this isn’t to dissuade people from using Excel; it’s by far the best rounded package available on the market today. But it is to say that if your business has a sole use for Excel such as managing a 5 million + line spreadsheet, there may be better alternatives for you. Some of the best things about Excel are simply a consequence of it being around for so long. Its graphing is intuitive and easy to make look pleasing. The syntax is easy to understand for even a layman. And any coding you have to do can be done in a cell or as part of an attached script, with plenty of documentation to help you make the right commits.

Excel has become something of a key requirement for many people to have, due to its presence and the ease of moving on to a more sophisticated program. Alot of companies today who are hiring staff will require at least some experience with Microsoft Office, and Excel is a big part of that. Staff need these skills as part of basic computer literacy, as most of Excel is made for the entry level user, not a programmer.

It’s important to remember that the learning curve for Excel is not straight. It’s easy to learn the basics, but as things get more and more complex the learning becomes much harder relatively due to the power of spreadsheets. You can do almost anything in Excel, from live data mapping and plotting with a living data set to creating a full blown role-playing-game in Excel itself. Excel is a powerful tool for any business to utilize, but for niche power users, some of the alternatives may be better suited.

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