Excel Online vs Excel Desktop App: How Do They Compare? | Excel Help
Your Programming and Traning Professionals

Excel Online vs Excel Desktop App: How Do They Compare?

Home » Excel Programming » Excel Online vs Excel Desktop App: How Do They Compare?

Excel Online vs Excel Desktop App: How Do They Compare?

Excel Online is an easy-to-use, slimmed version of the desktop app. It resembles the traditional Excel in various domains but has some exceptions.

Typically, you can access almost all the features of the cloud-based Microsoft Office applications with an Office 365 subscription. So, it’s easy to use all the new features of the online version that the Excel Desktop app version doesn’t offer.

Both versions have their pros and cons. In this article, we will get deeper insights into how they differ from each other, along with a side-by-side comparison of their features.

Difference in Features

Let’s begin our one-on-one with the features offered by both Excel versions.

The Home Menu

At first, you’ll think that the menu in Microsoft Excel Online doesn’t have many options like the desktop version. In reality, these options are still there, but they’re hidden in the dropdown menus.

Despite that, the online version lacks the following feature as compared to the desktop app:

  • Some styling options from the Number group, such as Percent Style and Comma Style.
  • Customizable new table and cell format styles.
  • Easy rows and columns filling from multiple directions.
  • Cell lock.
  • Sheet protection.
  • The whole clear menu.
  • Multiple options from the Find & Select feature, such as constants, formulae, and more.

Mostly, the differences are found in the formatting options. But, despite all of the above-listed features, you can use just about all the other formatting options on Excel Online, including conditional formatting.

The Data Menu

Excel Online doesn’t offer the following features from the Data menu:

  • Data import from external sources, such as databases or text files.
  • Advanced filtering options.
  • Several features in the Data Tools group, including flash fill, relationships, text to columns, and consolidate.
  • No outline or forecast groups on the ribbon.

The Formulas Menu

Hands down, the most significant difference between Excel Online and the desktop app is the Formulas menu. In Excel Online, the menu is almost empty and lacks major functionality offered by the Excel Desktop App.

However, you can easily find all the formulas organized in the submenus in the Excel Desktop app. Not only that but there are also multiple groups present in the ribbon that offer you formula auditing features, along with a watch window.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t use formulas in the online version. Like the desktop app version, you can trigger the calculations through formulas in the online sheet. So, these formulas are not actually missing but are hidden somewhere.

You can find all the formulas with another method. Simply select the function iron present next to the formula field. Once you click it, a pop-up window will open where you can find any formula you want.

If you want to bring all these formulas outside, you’ll have to change the “Pick a Category” option to “All.” In a nutshell, both online and desktop app versions have formulas available, but you’ll have to find them differently.

The Insert Menu

In Excel Online, the Insert Menu also hides all the advanced features in the dropdown submenus. If you opt for the online version, you are most likely to miss out on these options:

  • Symbols Menu.
  • Sourcing from external data sources and analyzing several tables in PivotTables.
  • Icons, SmartArt, and 3D models insertion.
  • Several charts and graphs, except 2D column, pie, bar, line, and area charts.
  • Text box, signature line, WordArt, and multiple objects.

The Review Menu

The Review Menu on the Excel Desktop app allows you to edit and spell-check your file. It also offers several options, such as notes, comments, and thesaurus. Unfortunately, in the Excel Online version, you won’t find the below features in the Review Menu:

  • Inking editing.
  • Language translation option.
  • Embedded thesaurus.
  • Notes, but it lets you convert your notes to Comments.
  • Smart Lookup insights.
  • Workbook or sheet protection.

The View Menu

Yes, you guessed it right, Microsoft Excel Online lacks multiple options in the View Menu. On the online version, you can only:

  • Create a new private sheet view.
  • Open a spreadsheet.
  • Freeze panes.
  • Show or hide gridlines and headings.

All the other important features in the View menu of the Excel Desktop App are missing in the online version, including:

  • Page break.
  • Page layout.
  • Custom views.
  • Zoom options.
  • Formula bar hiding option.
  • Macros.
  • Splitting, arranging, switching, or hiding multiple windows.

The thing to consider is that all these features aren’t actually relevant for online applications anyway. This means there is no need to create or launch VBA macros on a browser-based platform.

Other Completely Missing Menus

Apart from the ones we’ve listed above, some menus are entirely missing from Excel Online. These include:

  • Page Layout
  • Draw
  • Developer
  • Timeline

Excel Online vs. Desktop App: Pros and Cons

Both versions of Excel stand out in their distinct ways. Some pros and cons of both versions include:

  • Price. Excel Online is entirely free, while the desktop app version requires you to pay around $130 to download it on your device.
  • Advanced and Basic Features. Excel Online lacks several basic and advanced features that the desktop app offers.
  • Internet Connectivity. To work on Excel Online, you need to have a stable internet connection. On the other hand, you can work offline on the desktop app. So, this could be both a pro and con of using Excel Online.
  • Platforms. Excel Online runs on the web browser at onedrive.live.com, while the desktop app can run on your PC.
  • Files Storage. Excel Online files are usually saved in your OneDrive account. However, you can save these files on your PC easily with the desktop version.

When to Use Excel Online vs. Excel Desktop App?

Although both Excel Desktop App and online belong to Microsoft, they cater to different users and requirements. Here are some use cases to help you determine when to use which version:

  • VBA Coding. If you have to do advanced VBA coding or macros on your spreadsheet, it’s better to opt for the Excel Desktop App since the online version doesn’t support these features.
  • Charts. Excel Desktop App is the best option to use advanced graphs and charts.
  • Retrieval of External Data Sources. Excel Desktop App is good for retrieving data from external sources. However, the online version enables you to bring in data from geography and stock sources from the internet.
  • Editing. Excel Online doesn’t offer many editing options, like inking or notes feature, like the desktop version. So, if you want advanced editing features, the desktop version is the way to go.

Microsoft Excel is a great tool to organize data, add visuals, and understand trends. If you’re confused about how to get started, consult ExcelHelp.com today to enhance your Microsoft skills with the experts in the field.