How to Convert Excel to Google Sheets (Step-by-Step)

The war between Google Sheets and Excel users rages on. These are two of the most popular spreadsheet programs. Those who are comfortable using Google sheets swear by it, while Excel lovers prefer to stay within their Excel comfort zones.

But what happens when an Excel user sends a spreadsheet to a Google Sheets user?

Unless you have Excel, you can’t open and edit it.

If you are one of those Google Sheets loyalists at the receiving end of an Excel document, you do have a choice of just viewing the document as it is.

But if you want to work on the sent file in your familiar and comfortable Google Sheets environment, you may want to convert the Excel Document to Google Sheets.

In this tutorial, I will show you some ways you can use to convert an Excel file to Google Sheets.

How to open an Excel file in Google Sheets

Google Sheets can work with the following Excel file formats:

  • .xls
  • .xlsx
  • .xlsm
  • .xlt
  • .ods
  • .csv
  • .tsv
  • .tab

If you need to open a file in Google Sheets, it needs to first be present in your Google drive. So the first step to open an Excel file in Google Sheets is to upload it to the drive.

To upload an Excel file to your Google Drive, follow the steps below:

  1. Open your browser and go to Google Drive by typing drive.google.com in the location bar.
  2. On the top left of the Google Drive screen, click on New and then navigate to File Upload from the drop-down menu.Click on New and then click on File Upload
  3. Select the Excel file you want to upload from your computer. Give it a few seconds to uploadSelect the file by navigating to it's location

The above steps would add your Excel file to the drive and now you will be able to open it even if you don’t have Excel installed on your system.

To view the file content, simply double click on it.

At this point, you can just view the file, but you cannot make any changes to it.

If you want to make changes to it, you need to open it in Google Sheets by clicking on the Open in Google Docs option on the top of the screen. 

Click on Open with Google Sheets

If you cannot see this option, don’t worry. You can still open the file in Google Sheets by right-clicking, then selecting clicking Open with -> Google Sheets.

Now you can edit your file, share and collaborate with others on the data using Google Sheets.

The best part is, when you save this file, all changes will be saved to the original Excel file.

How to Convert an Excel file to Google Sheets Format

You might want to not just edit your file in Google Sheets, but also save it in the Google Sheets format instead of the Excel format.

If that is the case, make sure your file is already open in Google sheets, select Save as Google Sheets from the File menu.

Save an Excel file as Google Sheets

You will now have two copies of the same file – one in Excel format and another in Google Sheets format.

So even if you make any changes to this Google Sheet file, your original .xls file will remain unchanged.

How to Automatically Convert all Future Excel File Uploads

You can set your Google Drive to automatically convert subsequent uploads of Excel files to Google Sheet format.

This will save you a lot of time if you need to often use Excel files in Google Sheets. You can set this up as follows:

  1. Open Google drive.
  2. Click on the gear icon on the top right.Click on the gear icon in Google Drive
  3. Click Settings from the options that show up.Click on settings
  4. In the Settings box, you will see an option that says “Convert Uploads”. Check the box that says “Convert uploaded files to Google Docs editor format”.Convert Uplaod files to Google Docs Editor format
  5. Click Done.

This will convert any Office files to Google Docs, Sheets or Slides format.

Previously uploaded files, however, will not be affected by this setting and will continue to be in the original format.

How to Export a Sheets File Back to Excel

Finally, when you are done working on your Google Sheets file, you might want to convert it back to Excel.

This is also quite simple:

If your file is already open in Google Sheets:

  1. Go to File Download
  2. Select the Microsoft Excel (.xls) option.

Download a Google Sheet Document as an Excel FIle

Notice you also have the option to save this file in other formats such as PDF, HTML, or CSV. That’s one of the things that makes Google Sheets so versatile.

If you want to directly convert the Google Sheet file from your Google drive:

  1. Right-click on the file’s icon
  2. Select the Download option 

Your sheet automatically gets converted to an excel-ready format when downloading.

Compatibility Issues

While it’s great that you can work with Excel files in Google Sheets, Excel is still a lot more feature-rich. Google Sheets lacks a lot of functionalities and you may have some compatibility issues when you work with an Excel file that is converted to Google Sheets.

Google is always in the process of self-improvement and is also working on improving its Office editing features.

But in the meantime, though, you may encounter some compatibility-related issues with certain features.

Before ending the discussion, here are a few incompatibility issues that you might come across when trying to convert Excel files to Google Sheets:

  • If your file is password protected, it will not be possible to import it into Google Sheets
  • Google Sheets does not account for links in your Excel file to other Workbooks.
  • Google Sheets does not support PowerPivot, Power Query or other Data Model features of Excel
  • If your Excel file has macros written in VBA, then these are not accounted for in Google Sheets. You can, however, write your code in AppScript when working inside Google Sheets.

If your Excel file has any of the above elements, either these will be hidden, lost, or worse, altered! So make sure you get rid of the above features before converting.

Why Use Google Sheets Instead of Excel?

Microsoft Excel has been around for quite a long time and is widely being used in companies and offices all over the world.

However, after Google released its counterpart, Google Sheets, a lot of people have started taking a liking to the browser-based spreadsheet platform. Here’s why:

  • While installation of Microsoft Excel costs $99, Google Sheets are available on your regular Google browser completely free of cost (all you need is a free Google Account).
  • Excel has been around longer, and so a lot of people have gotten accustomed to its interface. Google Sheets has taken a lot of inspiration from Excel and their user interface is clean and intuitive (with fewer functionalities of course)
  • Your Google Sheets are saved on your Google Drive, so you can access your files from anywhere using any browser. You don’t need any special software to run it.
  • Google sheets let you collaborate with others on the same sheet, so you can work with your team-mates in real-time and make changes simultaneously. You can even chat with these collaborators in real-time.
  • When Google Sheets roll out a new feature or functionality, it’s available to all at the same time. You don’t have to worry about versions and backward compatibility of documents with Google Sheets.
  • When you work on a Google Sheet, your files get automatically backed up into your Google Drive, so no more oops moments.
  • You can add code and run APIs using Google Sheets, which adds much more flexibility and functionality to how you use your data.

In this article, you’ve seen how you can change formats between the two spreadsheet giants Google Sheets and Excel.

For the time being, the points discussed hold true, but as mentioned before, Google is always making amends to its features.

Hope you found this tutorial useful!

You may also like the following Google Sheets tutorials:

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