Last Updated: April 16, 2021.
Not everyone uses spreadsheets in their daily lives. However, they are very helpful, especially when it comes to making calculations, building charts or graphs, keeping track of inventory items, and even creating to-do or shopping lists.
The most famous programme for dealing with spreadsheets is unquestionably Microsoft Excel. It allows you to open and create all kinds of sheets as well as visualize and organize your data in a preferable way.
To use this programme, it’s necessary to buy an Office license or subscribe to Office 365, which is not suitable for some users. Fortunately, there are several free Excel alternatives that will definitely make you forget about the Microsoft software.
Here is our list of the best spreadsheet applications for Windows that you can download without spending any money.
Apache OpenOffice Calc
Calc is the spreadsheet application of Apache OpenOffice, an open-source office productivity suite. Released more than 20 years ago, in those days it was known as the OpenOffice.org project and remained one of the main competitors of Microsoft Office for a long time.
Compared with Excel, Calc has nothing surprising when it comes to basic functionality but there are some features that the Microsoft solution doesn’t offer. You will notice this if you work with formulas a lot.
Calc’s wizard knows plenty of advanced functions and allows you to create formulas using different words (e.g. “sales – costs”). As an open-source solution and a close cousin of LibreOffice, Calc offers good support for the OpenFormula standard. Using this programme, you can import your old Microsoft Excel spreadsheets or save your work in Excel format.
Calc is also able to read .xlsx files created with Microsoft Office 2007 or Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac OS X. At the moment, the developers offer a 32-bit (x86) version for Windows but it installs and runs also on Windows 64-bit (x86-64).
Another open-source Excel alternative, LibreOffice Calc, is very similar to the spreadsheet application of Apache OpenOffice.
The simple truth is that it was forked from the mentioned above OpenOffice.org project in 2010.
Now LibreOffice is managed and developed by The Document Foundation. LibreOffice Calc provides all the fundamental features of Excel, such as pivot tables, charts, text to columns, and much more. It even allows you to open spreadsheets created with old-fashioned programmes like Microsoft Works, BeagleWorks, etc.
It is especially helpful when you have to work with old files. LibreOffice Calc saves spreadsheets in its native Open Document Format (.ods) and is also compatible with Microsoft Excel format.
It can even read .xlsx files created with Microsoft Office for macOS but sometimes compatibility leaves much to be desired. Using this programme, you are allowed to export spreadsheets to Portable Document Format (.pdf).
What makes Libre Office Calc really good is the ability to perform collaborative work on spreadsheets thanks to multiple-user support. You just need to share a spreadsheet so that other users can easily add their data to it. Then you can then integrate the new data in a few clicks.
WPS Office Spreadsheets
Unlike the two previous options, WPS Office Spreadsheets is not open-source. Despite being proprietary software, it is one of the best Excel alternatives available for Windows.
This programme is part of the WPS Office Suite created by a team of Chinese developers from Kingsoft. WPS Office Spreadsheets has most of the features you would expect from Microsoft Excel and runs smoothly at the same time.
Since the app is free, you can only use it with ads or buy a subscription to get rid of them completely. These ads usually last 15 to 20 seconds. They are not too disturbing and will only appear when you want to print, save or use the advanced features.
After an ad preview, no other ads will appear for another 30 minutes. Despite the ads issue, the app supports Xls, Xlsx, and CSV formats. This makes it possible to open and edit spreadsheets received from other people, and then save them directly to WPS Office with full confidence that other users can open them without any problems.
SoftMaker FreeOffice PlanMaker
PlanMaker is the spreadsheet programme of the SoftMaker FreeOffice suite developed by Nuremberg-based SoftMaker Software GmbH. The German solution also includes the document processor called TextMaker and the Presentations application.
If you want to move away from Microsoft software and are looking for a powerful and convenient Excel clone, PlanMaker is an excellent choice. It offers a comprehensive feature set, an attractive user interface, and pretty good support for the Xlsx file format.
Thus, PlanMaker eliminates many of the disadvantages of using Calc as an Excel alternative to Excel.
PlanMaker works on all major desktop platforms, making it an attractive Excel alternative for Mac and Linux too. The only serious drawback is the absence of many advanced features in the free version. To edit spreadsheets professionally, you need to buy a permanent license or upgrade to a temporary subscription.
ONLYOFFICE Spreadsheet Editor
One more open-source solution on our list, ONLYOFFICE Spreadsheet Editor is part of the office suite created and developed by Ascensio System SIA from Latvia.
Initially, the ONLYOFFICE project was focused upon online editors for text documents, spreadsheets, and presentations but over time the developers released a free desktop version and made the source code open for everyone.
ONLYOFFICE Spreadsheet Editor is natively compatible with Microsoft Excel format and also works pretty well with Xls, ods, and CSV files. The programme’s interface looks clean and professional, and new users will find it intuitive and easy to learn.
The editor offers all the features we would like to see in an Excel alternative. You can visualize and sort data the way you want to, make complex calculations and apply functions and formulas.
You are also allowed to run macros for routine tasks and use third-party plugins to add more functionality (for example, Google Translate or YouTube videos).
If you connect your desktop app to the cloud, such as ONLYOFFICE, Nextcloud, ownCloud, or Seafile, you will be able to make the most of online collaboration — edit spreadsheets with other users in real-time, which is pretty convenient for remote teams.
Download the free version of ONLYOFFICE Desktop Editors from the official website. We hope that this article was useful to you. Let us know what you think about the best Excel alternatives for Windows in the comments section below. Your feedback is always appreciated!