Do You Need Microsoft Excel for Mac?

As a Mac user living in a PC world, chances are you have had the need at one point in time to to create a detailed spreadsheet. Microsoft Excel is considered the computer industry standard for spreadsheet creation by many users. The program integrates with other Microsoft Office Suite programs, such as Word, PowerPoint, and Access. However, Microsoft Excel for Mac cannot be purchased as a stand alone program and requires you to purchase the whole Office Suite.

Fortunately, Microsoft Excel is not the only game in town, so an alternative program may be able to provide just as much functionality as Excel does and in turn, save you money. Deciding what type of spreadsheet program for Mac you need should be based on what you will use the spreadsheet program for.

What are the Different Microsoft Office Versions for Mac Which Have Excel?

The Microsoft Office Suite for Mac comes in three different versions as of April 2013. These versions include Office 365 Home Premium, Office for Mac Home & Business, and Office for Mac Home & Student. The difference between each version is the number of licenses provided, the price, and certain software features.

Each version has the full software version of Microsoft Excel for Mac. For most people the Mac Home & Student version is more than enough to fulfill their needs. However, if you wish to have Microsoft Outlook, the home and student version will not be sufficient. You will have to purchase the Microsoft Home & Business version to use Microsoft Outlook.

What is the Difference Between Excel and iWork Numbers?

Quite honestly, the only difference between Excel and iWork Numbers is the name and some of the functionality. Both programs create spreadsheets, run calculations, print in grid format, and are used for the same purposes. iWork was built to run on the Mac platform and is only available for Mac, while Excel was built to run on a PC platform but has a Mac version.

There are slight differences with the way the each program looks, and those that are used to Excel may have a hard time finding their way around Numbers. Files created in Excel and Numbers are exportable between the two programs. However, spreadsheets in Numbers only come through as individual sheets in Excel rather than a workbook.

Is There a Free Alternative for Microsoft Excel on Mac?

There are alternatives to the Microsoft Office Suite for Mac. In fact there are many on the Internet that are both free and able to provide you with the function of saving a file to Excel format, should you need to send it to someone with Excel.

One free program is the spreadsheet tool available in Google Drive, formerly known as Google Docs. You’ll need to have a Gmail account to set up the Google Drive and use the spreadsheet tool. The nice thing about Google Drive spreadsheets is they stay on Google Drive indefinitely, or until you archive and delete the file. The Google Drive can be accessed from anywhere, which makes it convenient when you want to check or update a spreadsheet from your computer, tablet, or smartphone. Sharing spreadsheets created in Google Drive are easily done by selecting the download as option in the file menu and saving out to a .xls file.

OpenOffice is another free alternative to Excel for Mac. The OpenOffice spreadsheet program is called Calc. Calc is a downloadable program that you must install on your hard drive. Unlike Google Drive, Calc spreadsheet files are completely stored on your computer and you do not need an Internet connection to use Calc. Files can be exported from Calc to Excel file formats for emailing and sharing purposes.

In addition to the programs above there are other free Mac spreadsheet freeware programs available. These include NeoOffice and LibreOffice, which are downloadable open source programs. Both of these programs are modeled after OpenOffice and have many of the same commands and drop down menus.

Which Mac Spreadsheet Program Should You Choose?

For the purposes of just using a spreadsheet to create simple files that can add up equations and create graphs on your Mac, any of the free spreadsheet programs will do. But, if you are using these spreadsheets for business purposes, you may find that owning a copy of Microsoft Excel for Mac is best for your needs.

Certain accounting programs, like Quickbooks and Peachtree, export detailed financial information into Excel file formats and may not always be able to be read by programs that are not Excel.

Microsoft Excel for Mac is a useful program, but the alternatives may help you save some cash until you are ready to purchase the complete Office Suite. You may also be able to utilize a 30-day trial of the Microsoft Office Suite by downloading the Office program directly from Microsoft. When you install it, simply select the option to begin as a trial.

50 Kimberly Carver


Kimberly Carver is a trained Mac Specialist/Expert. Trained both in school and on the job she continues to educate herself about Macs at every opportunity she gets. Kim’s official training and areas of expertise include: Mac specialist, AOL IT Tech, certified paralegal, research specialist, and licensed private investigator.