Microsoft Excel is a fantastic and robust spreadsheet application. It is a market leader for a reason. But why would someone consider Google Sheets over Excel? Two reasons. First, Google Sheets is a collaboration-friendly cloud-based application that one can access from any device or location. Second, it is as good as Excel when it comes to functionality but comes at no cost. If the user decides to make the switch, the next step is to understand how to make the transition from Excel to Google Sheets.

If you are a regular Excel user, then getting along with Google Sheets should be a breeze. That is because, at their core, both Excel and Google Sheets are spreadsheets. And almost all the features and functionalities have been laid out in a similar fashion as we’ll demonstrate in this article. To be able to use Google Sheets, you’ll need to have a Google account.

Getting started

To open a blank Excel file, we usually navigate to All Programs > Microsoft Excel > Blank workbook.

Excel to Google Sheets - Illustration 1a

To be able to open a blank Google Sheets file, we first have to navigate to https://docs.google.com/ > Main menu > Sheets > Blank. If not signed in to Google account already, the application may ask you to do so.

Excel to Google Sheets - Illustration 1b

The first look

Here’s how the Excel application looks like when we open a blank file.

Excel to Google Sheets - Illustration 2a

Now let’s take a look at the how Google Sheets application looks when it loads a blank file.

Excel to Google Sheets - Illustration 2b

Please notice how the formatting toolbar, the formula bar, and the spreadsheet real estate, all look pretty much similar.

Sample data and formatting

Let us now try entering a sample data as shown below. We will then apply borders to the cells, bold the headings, color the header with light blue. And finally horizontally align the second column to center.

Excel to Google Sheets - Illustration 3a

How does it look if we performed the same set of steps on Google Sheets? Not too different, actually!

Excel to Google Sheets - Illustration 3b

Formulas, anybody?

Now let’s try to obtain the average age on cell B5 on both the spreadsheets, using a basic formula. This is how Microsoft Excel file looks like.

Excel to Google Sheets - Illustration 4a

Now here’s how the Google Sheets file looks like. We see identical formula syntaxes and results.

Excel to Google Sheets - Illustration 4b

Save your work

With Excel, we need to navigate to File > Save to be able to preserve the file using a name of our choice, and directory of our preference.

Excel to Google Sheets - Illustration 5a

With Google Sheets though, we just have to name the file. Google Sheets keeps auto saving the file on the Google Drive.

Excel to Google Sheets - Illustration 5b

That’s comforting. But how do I make the switch?

If you are worried about carrying forward all your work from Excel to Google Sheets, fret not. Google Sheets is capable of handling Excel files too. The only pre-requisite? Excel files must be on the Google Drive. To accomplish this easily, we can install either Google Drive or Google Drive plug-in for Microsoft Office to save Excel files on to the Google Drive.

To upload using Google Drive software, right click on the file name > Choose ‘Google Drive’ > Click ‘Share’.

Excel to Google Sheets - Illustration 6a

Through Google Drive plug-in, we can upload the Excel file by navigating to File > Save As > Google Drive > Save As to upload the file to Google Drive.

Excel to Google Sheets - Illustration 6c

Is that all about moving from Excel to Google Sheets?

Both spreadsheet application offers a ton of other functionalities, mostly similar to each other. The notable ones are charts, pivot tables, conditional formatting, sorting, data validation. Covering all of them is beyond the scope of this article. We encourage you to try them yourself. Because you’ll be surprised at the similarity of these applications have with each other.

Sure, both applications have features unavailable in the other. For example, VBA is not compatible with Google Sheets. We can script on Google Sheets too, using Google Script. But that is a discussion for another day. The idea is to get you comfortable to make the switch from Excel to Google Sheets.