Apple Numbers vs. Microsoft Excel: spreadsheet differences and compatibilities

The benefit of spreadsheet programs for businesses, both big and small, is unmatched. Functions or preinstalled formulas in business make creation of spreadsheets for personal, financial and business analysis extremely easy.

Apple Numbers and Microsoft Excel are spreadsheet programs that most businesses use. While Excel might enjoy more popularity, both the programs are efficient and capable of reducing time spent in business management; for instance, creating financial statements and reports. In order to choose between Numbers and Excel, it is important to gain a complete understanding of the available features in both.


The functions and formulas in both Excel and Numbers have been named in the same way and thus, when Apple programs are exported to Excel, it is pretty easy and simple. However, when a table from Apple Numbers is exported to MS Excel, an individual worksheet is created in Excel. This is because Apple Numbers lets people use different worksheets while Excel comes with one infinite worksheet. Thus, people used to working in Apple Numbers find exporting tables to different worksheets extremely inconvenient. With Excel, however, one worksheet can hold many different tables.


There are various differences between Apple Numbers and Excel. Generally speaking, people who have used Microsoft all their life will find it hard to work with Apple and vice versa. This is because of the UI of the manufacturers. Excel is ideal for big businesses that require volumous lists of large inventories. Apple Numbers, on the other hand, is efficient and quick when it comes to crunching huge figures. Also, for home based users who require spreadsheets for casual purposes, Apple Numbers could be just the thing. Because Excel is so versatile and ideal for proper accounting purposes, financial experts often prefer it over Apple Numbers. Calculations and complicated functions can be completed at great speeds in Excel.


The main difference between the two programs is ultimately not who they cater to but in their versatility. While Excel comes with versions that are both Windows and Mac compatible, Apple Numbers can only be operated on a Mac. When a comparison of functions is done between Excel and Apple Numbers, Excel offers 138 more functions that can be used to perform convoluted financial calculations. Also, plotting features and advanced charting which help the user in data visualization is not available with Apple Numbers, whereas Excel is known for its amazing charting and plotting features. However, if aesthetics are to be taken into account, Apple Numbers’ charts do look better. Layout templates are offered in both Apple Numbers and Excel.


Preconfigured formulas in spreadsheets are called ‘Functions’, and both Apple Numbers and Excel have them. The 2009 update of Apple Numbers increased the total number of functions available. In spite of that, it is still fewer than Excel’s functions. With Apple Numbers, users get about 262 functions spread across 10 categories. On the other hand, the 2010 update of Excel brought 400 functions spread across 11 categories. The categories for both these programs include engineering, financial, statistical, text, time and date. In fact, the 2010 update of Excel added more accuracy in the formulas by improving the algorithms. Both the programs, however, require parts of the formula to be updated with the numbers, data and cell addresses in the spreadsheet. Neither program necessarily wins out in the formulas category. Although it should be noted that formulas in general are very difficult to fully master. Several businesses make their money off simplifying the formula writing process in spreadsheets.

Overall, it can be seen that while Apple Numbers is perfect for personal budgeting and holiday itineraries, Excel is more suited for academic, professional and business uses that demand more speed, efficiency and sophistication. While Apple Numbers’ tables might come with beautiful color schemes and the option to apply summation to rows, Excel tends to keep things simple. At the same time, Excel has all the features of Apple Numbers plus more including plotting, charting, curve fitting, scatter graphs et al. When it comes to large data sets, Apple Numbers loses out on speed which will, perhaps, be remedied in future updates of the spreadsheet program.

Robert Cordray
Robert Cordray
Robert Cordray is a former business consultant and entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience and a wide variety of knowledge in multiple areas of the industry. He currently resides in the Southern California area and spends his time helping consumers and business owners alike try to be successful. When he’s not reading or writing, he’s most likely with his beautiful wife and three children.

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