Excel vs Numbers: Which Is the Superior Spreadsheet Program?

Microsoft Excel and Apple Numbers are two of the most popular spreadsheet programs used today. For many users, the tools have become an integral part of daily life. They allow us to store and analyze large amounts of data, besides creating informative overviews for better decision-making.

But which spreadsheet program suits your needs the most?

Despite the similarities in their features and functionalities, there are a few distinct differences when it comes to Excel vs Numbers. With that in mind, we’ll walk you through both platforms, illustrating their pros, cons, and key differences.

Apple Spreadsheet vs Excel: Quick Comparison

Excel Numbers
  • Can handle complex data analysis
  • Works well with large data sets
  • Has around 420 built-in functions
  • Offers excellent data visualization tools
  • Supports Windows, Mac, and other operating systems
  • Has around 250 built-in functions
  • Offers pre-installed spreadsheet templates
  • Real-time collaboration across devices
  • User-friendly interface
  • Costly licensing options
  • The number of built-in functions may be overwhelming
  • Supports Mac and iOS only
  • Can only handle small data sets
Best Built-in Functions ✔️
Best Compatibility with Data Sets ✔️
Best Options for Graphs and Charts ✔️
Best Options for Tables ✔️
Best User Interface ✔️ ✔️
Best Collaboration ✔️ ✔️
Best Compatibility with Operating Systems ✔️
Best Licensing Options ✔️

What Is Microsoft Excel?

Excel vs Numbers—User interface of Microsoft Excel on PC and mobile



  • Can handle complex data analysis
  • Works well with large data sets
  • Has around 420 built-in functions
  • Offers excellent data visualization tools
  • Supports Windows, Mac, and other operating systems


  • Costly licensing options
  • The number of built-in functions may be overwhelming

Excel comes from the largest computer software vendor: Microsoft. It’s a versatile spreadsheet program under the Office 365 suite. You can use it on any device that supports Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS.

Perhaps its biggest advantage over other spreadsheet programs is the fact that it has the most built-in functions by far. You can use over 420 formulas grouped into 11 different categories. This grouping makes navigation between tools much easier, but newbies may still have a tough time getting the hang of the interface.

On top of this, Excel can store, calculate, and analyze large data sets without experiencing lags and glitches. You’ll be able to organize your data into thousands of rows and columns with no issues in performance.

It also has many charts, graphs, and tables to choose from, including the widely used “pivot table.” These are diagrams you can’t find in other spreadsheet programs, giving you more options to present your data.

Finally, Excel lets you collaborate with other users through its online app. You can also upload your file to OneDrive and share it with others.

Despite its features, Excel comes at a hefty price. You’ll need to shell out $6.99 per month to access its full capabilities.

What Is Apple Numbers?

Apple Numbers—pre-built spreadsheet templates upon starting a new project



  • Has around 250 built-in functions
  • Offers pre-installed spreadsheet templates
  • Real-time collaboration across devices
  • User-friendly interface


  • Supports Mac and iOS only
  • Can only handle small data sets

Numbers is pretty much the Apple equivalent of Excel and it’s under the iWork Productivity suite for macOS and iOS devices.

Most users will find Numbers UI more user-friendly than Excel, allowing for easier control over your spreadsheet’s appearance and how you want to present your data.

There are more than 40 pre-installed spreadsheet templates with varying uses. You can also select 2D and 3D charts or add videos and images that match your needs. Furthermore, Numbers allows you to edit Excel and CSV files using its built-in functions. This capability lets you format and analyze your data in whichever way you like.

You can also collaborate with other macOS and iOS users in real-time, making it a great platform for collaborative projects. You may even share your spreadsheet publicly or privately with your peers.

Above all, Numbers is one of the best free spreadsheet software. There’s no monthly subscription to use its full features, unlike Excel.

Key Differences Between Excel vs Numbers

Deciding between the two spreadsheet programs can be pretty difficult, especially since both are great at what they do. Fortunately, they have varying features, capabilities, and target markets. Brushing up on these distinctions can make it easier for you to make an informed decision.

That being said, let’s take a closer look at their key differences when comparing Apple Numbers vs Excel:

Number of Functions

Since spreadsheet programs store and analyze data, using their available functions helps you interpret them better. More functions will allow you to present them in more ways.

In this regard, Excel outdoes Apple Numbers by a significant margin.

Excel Numbers
  • Over 420 built-in functions
  • Over 250 built-in functions


Microsoft Excel has over 420 built-in functions, allowing you to perform complex statistical analysis or propose what-if scenarios.

On the other hand, Numbers only has a little over 250 functions, most of which are fairly basic.

Compatibility with Data Sets

Handling large chunks of data every now and then is inevitable in most businesses. That’s why you need a powerful spreadsheet program.

When it comes to the size and complexity of data sets, Excel wins hands down.

Excel Numbers
  • Can handle large and complex data sets
  • Compatible with larger businesses
  • Can handle small data sets
  • Compatible with personal or casual use


Excel works well for larger businesses and establishments. It has more functions and can sort data into different sheets. But above all, it doesn’t glitch or lag when you analyze big data sets.

Sadly, Numbers isn’t up for this challenge just yet. It can only handle smaller data sets, meaning your program will become slow or unresponsive if you add large amounts of information.

Available Graphs and Tables

Similar to having additional functions, more options for graphs and tables can help you interpret your data easily and present it to your audience better.

In this category, Excel and Numbers each appear to have their own strengths. Excel has excellent choices for tables, but Numbers outshines it when it comes to its available graphs.

Excel Numbers
  • Has more powerful options for tables
  • Creates appealing charts and graphs


You can create distinct tables in Excel. For instance, you can add an Excel-specific tool called a “pivot table” to see and compare patterns and trends in your data. You won’t find it on some spreadsheet programs like Numbers.

Meanwhile, Numbers has better options for charts and graphs. You have control over their designs and can make them look more appealing than Excel’s standard options.

User Interface

A clean and intuitive interface can save you time on any spreadsheet program since you won’t have trouble navigating through functions and tools. Plus, it’s always nice for a program’s interface to be sleek and easy on the eyes.

In this aspect, Excel and Numbers stand side-by-side.

Excel Numbers
  • Overwhelming functions and tools
  • Has sheets for easier sorting of data
  • Easier to navigate functions and tools
  • No sheets


Since Excel has many built-in functions, they get a bit overwhelming for users. Newbies will have a hard time looking for the operation they want to perform. On the plus side, you can sort your data and group them into different sheets more easily.

Numbers, on the other hand, exhibits a minimalist aesthetic. It’s also much easier to navigate its functions and tools. But it only uses one big canvas, so you can’t sort your data into different sheets.

Real-Time Collaboration

A highly collaborative spreadsheet program is important if you’re working in teams. You can calculate and analyze your data together and in real-time, while seamlessly making changes to the presentation.

Both Excel and Numbers help you do just that.

Excel Numbers
  • Collaboration through OneDrive
  • Collaboration through iCloud


You can share your Excel document through OneDrive and your Numbers file on iCloud.

Compatibility with Operating Systems

Flexibility and accessibility are crucial when choosing the right spreadsheet program, given how important it is for some users to have access to their files on any device.

Between Excel and Numbers, Excel is the more convenient of the two.

Excel Numbers
  • Supports Windows, Apple, Android, and iOS
  • Supports macOS and iOS only


You can use Microsoft Excel on more operating systems. It’s compatible with Windows and Mac, as well as Android and iOS.

Meanwhile, you only have limited accessibility with Numbers. It only works on Mac and iOS, so it’s highly exclusive to Apple users.

Licensing Options

Knowing the available subscription plans of spreadsheet programs can help you decide whether or not they fit your budget. That being said, one of the most significant differences between Mac Numbers vs Excel is their licensing options.

Excel Numbers
  • $159.99 for a standalone product
  • $6.99 for a monthly subscription
  • Free


You can get Excel as a standalone product for $159.99. But if you subscribe to Microsoft 365, you can use Excel, along with Word, PowerPoint, Outlook, and OneDrive, for $6.99 per month.

Meanwhile, Numbers is free to all macOS and iOS users. You’ll get full access to its features without subscribing to any license.

When to Use Excel and Numbers?

Excel is a top choice for schools and businesses, while Numbers is superior for personal or casual use. But choosing between Excel vs Numbers ultimately depends on your needs.

If you want a program that can handle complex data analysis, Excel is the way to go. But if you only need an intuitive tool with a wide variety of spreadsheet templates or you’re working on a tight budget, download Numbers instead.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Apple’s Version of Excel?

Numbers is Apple’s version of Excel. It doesn’t exactly have the same features and capabilities. However, it is a great spreadsheet program for Apple users.

Can I Use Numbers as Excel?

Yes, Numbers is an excellent alternative to Excel. It can perform basic computations and data analysis. But it’s limited to just 250 functions and only works on macOS and iOS.

Is Numbers Just as Good as Excel?

This depends on what you intend to use Numbers for. If you’re planning to use it for large data sets and complex functions, then it may leave you wanting. It’s also exclusive to only Apple users.

On the other hand, it does allow you to analyze and present your data in pretty graphs and tables and has many of the basic functionalities that Excel offers.

Is Numbers Compatible with Excel?

No, files created with Numbers (.numbers) are not recognizable in Excel. So make sure to export them as Excel or CSV documents.

Final Thoughts

When comparing Excel vs Numbers, it’s easy to see that each platform has its own set of features and capabilities that lead to varying user experiences. Choosing the right spreadsheet program for you essentially boils down to which one best suits your specific needs.

If you’re ready to start a new spreadsheet project, visit SpreadsheetPoint on Gumroad and get access to handy spreadsheet templates. Use ‘SSP’ as your promo code and get 50% off all templates.


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