Excel for the Web vs Excel Desktop Version

Jul 4, 2024 | Excel Hints and Tips

Microsoft Excel is available in two main versions, the traditional desktop version and the newer web-based version often referred to as Excel for the Web.

Each has its strengths and weaknesses, and understanding these can help you choose the right tool for your needs.

Pros of Excel for the Web

Accessibility – Excel for the Web is accessible from any device with an internet connection. This means you can access your spreadsheets from your laptop, tablet, or smartphone, making it great for those who are always on the go.

Collaboration – One of the biggest advantages of Excel for the Web is the ability to collaborate in real-time. Multiple users can work on the same spreadsheet simultaneously, seeing each other’s changes as they happen. This feature is perfect for teams working remotely.

Auto-save – With Excel for the Web, you never have to worry about losing your work due to a power outage or computer crash. Changes are saved automatically and continuously, ensuring your data is always safe.  This is optional to switch on in the desktop version.

Integration with other Microsoft products – Excel for the Web integrates with other Microsoft products like OneDrive and Teams, making it easier to share and collaborate on documents.

Cons of Excel for the Web

Limited features – While Excel for the Web has many of the same features as the desktop version, it doesn’t have them all. Some advanced features, like Power Pivot, certain types of data analysis, data validation, form controls, workbook protection, macros and VBA are only available in the desktop version.  Other features are limited such as those available on the page layout and view tabs.  Excel for the web does have Scripts which can perform a similar function in a lot of cases to Macros and VBA.

Performance – For large spreadsheets with complex calculations, Excel for the Web may not perform as well as the desktop version. The desktop version is generally faster and more responsive.

Pros of Excel Desktop Version

Full set of features – The desktop version of Excel includes every feature that Microsoft offers. This includes advanced data analysis tools, extensive formatting options, and more. If you need to do complex work in Excel, the desktop version is likely to be your best bet.

Offline access – Unlike the web version, the desktop version of Excel can be used offline. This can be a significant advantage if you frequently find yourself without a reliable internet connection.  This could be at home, working on public transport or at a remote office location.

Cons of Excel Desktop Version

Cost – The desktop version of Excel comes with a cost, either as a standalone product or as part of the Microsoft Office suite. In contrast, the basic version of Excel for the Web is free.

Collaboration – While the desktop version does offer some collaboration features, it doesn’t match the real-time collaboration offered by the web version.

In conclusion, both versions of Excel have their place. If you need advanced features and don’t mind paying, the desktop version is likely the best choice. However, if you value accessibility, collaboration, and cost-effectiveness, Excel for the Web is a good choice. The web version is gaining new features on a regular basis so keep an eye out for any changes. As always, the best tool depends on your specific needs and circumstances.

Further Reading

If you’ve enjoyed reading about the Pros and Cons of Excel for the Web versus Excel for Desktop, there are some other blogs below that you might find useful:

Want to learn more about Microsoft Excel? Then email lara@laramellortraining.co.uk to discuss how I can help or have a look at the Microsoft Excel Courses I run.