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Understand the basic Different between Excel Online vs Excel Desktop. Excel Online is like a simpler version of Excel that you can use in your web browser. It has most of the important features you need, but it doesn’t have advanced things like macros. This article dives into the differences between Excel Online and the excel Desktop version to help you understand what each one is good at and where they fall short.

Microsoft Excel Online

We’ve all used Excel at some point. But did you know there’s an online version too?

It’s like a lighter version of Microsoft Excel’s desktop app. They’re quite similar, but the web app has its pros and cons, which we’ll talk about below.

Here’s a sneak peek of what it looks like

Link Excel online

Here’s a brief list of the Pros and Cons of the online version of Excel


  • Familiar user interface : If you’re accustomed to using the Excel desktop app, Excel Online will feel very familiar. It looks almost identical to the desktop version of Excel
  • Because Excel Online is cloud-based, collaboration is much easier. You can access your files from any device, at any time
  • No need to worry about compatibility between Excel files created in Excel Online and your Excel desktop app. The online version uses a native format that’s fully compatible, so any file you create or save online can be opened and used seamlessly in your desktop app.
  • Let’s not forget, it comes for free. So no charges, just log into your Microsoft account and go spread-sheeting


  • You can’t access your files offline unless you have downloaded them and made an offline copy. This is because Excel online is exclusively internet-dependent
  • Not all file formats are endorsed.
  • Compared to the desktop app, there are some missing features – especially: Macros and VBA
  • Excel Online is just not the spreadsheet program for you if you have a large dataset ahead of you. It runs on very limited storage. And so, will hang to death (or even go unresponsive) when burdened with loads of data

How to access Excel online

Now that you know an online version of Excel exists, you sure want to access it.

It takes a few steps to access the online version

  1. Go to
  2. Scroll down, and you’ll see an Excel icon; Click on it.
  3. This will take you to the following page
Excel online access
  1. Click on the option highlighted in the above image.
  2. A new tab will open where you will sign in to your Microsoft account.
But wait! You don’t have a Microsoft account? Select the option highlighted in the image below if you don’t have a Microsoft office account.
  1. Enter your credentials to create an account (it takes five minutes or less). And have access to Microsoft Excel Online.

Significant differences between Excel online and Excel Desktop

There are many differences between both versions. The major ones are listed below

The Home Menu

Excel Online gives you many ways to format your data, like using conditional formatting. But compared to the desktop app, it doesn’t let you control the details as much. For example, you can’t choose specific number styles or customize cell formats as easily. It also lacks some advanced fill options. So, while you can still make things look nice, it’s not as detailed as the desktop version.

Excel Online Home Menu
Excel online Home Menu
Excel Desktop Home Menu
Excel Desktop Home Menu

The Data Menu

Excel Online has some trouble handling data compared to the desktop version. It can’t do advanced things like importing data easily, using advance filters, or some important tools like flash fill and text to columns. These missing features might be frustrating for users who are used to the desktop version’s powerful data tools.

Excel Online Data Menu
Excel Desktop Data Menu
Excel Desktop Data Menu

The Formulas Menu

Excel Online works differently from the desktop app. In the desktop app, you can easily find lots of formulas to use. But in Excel Online, you must search for formulas in a function picker. However, both versions let you do calculations using formulas, which means you can analyse data and do math on both the online and desktop versions.

Excel Online Formulas Menu
Excel Desktop Formulas Menu
Excel Desktop Formula Menu

The Insert Menu

In Excel Online, you might have trouble finding some advanced features because they’re tucked away in the Insert menu. This includes things like symbols, PivotTables, charts beyond the basics, and adding different types of objects.

Excel Online Insert Menu
Excel online Insert Menu
Excel Desktop Insert Menu
Excel Desktop Insert Menu

The Review Menu

In Excel Online, the Review menu doesn’t have some handy features you might find in the desktop version. This includes things like inking editing, translation, thesaurus, advanced commenting options, and protecting your workbook or sheets.

Excel Online Review Menu
Excel Online Review Menu
Excel Desktop Review Menu

The View menu

In Excel Online, the View menu keeps things pretty simple. You can do basic stuff like freezing panes and showing gridlines. But if you’re used to the desktop version, you’ll notice some things are missing, like page layout, custom views, and macros. That’s just because online versions have some limits compared to desktop
Excel Online View Menu
Excel online View Menu
Excel Desktop View Menu
Excel Desktop view menu

Other Completely Missing Menus

In Excel Online, you won’t find menus like Page Layout, Draw, Developer, and Timeline. They’re not available in the online version

Another thing to note is that you can’t add extra add-ins or menus to Microsoft Excel online. That’s because the File menu doesn’t have the Options choice like you’d find in Excel for desktop, where you’d normally go to do that.s choice like you’d find in Excel for desktop, where you’d normally go to do that

When to Use Excel Online vs Excel desktop App?

If you have advanced needs like coding in VBA, making complex charts, importing data from sources outside the web, or doing detailed editing, go for Excel Desktop. Otherwise, if you just need to do basic tasks and want a free option that works on the web, Excel Online is a good choice.

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