Office licenses are expensive.

What features of Microsoft Office are missing from Google Sheets that would be of value in ordinary personal or business use?

  • 1
    Not a dupe, that question was geared directly to college students. This one is more general in nature. Commented Jul 7, 2010 at 21:52
  • @TalGalili hat question is generally about Google Docs and this is particularly about Speardsheets.
    – user19533
    Commented Jun 1, 2012 at 7:59
  • It has really bothered me that there is no CLEAN() function in Google Spreadsheets. See webapps.stackexchange.com/questions/33989/…
    – Ryan
    Commented Nov 1, 2012 at 15:26
  • 2
    This question appears to be off-topic because it is about an older version of Google Spreadsheets, and many of the answers have become outdated.
    – jonsca
    Commented Mar 5, 2014 at 6:46

8 Answers 8


I find the inability of Google spreadsheets to select noncontiguous rows or columns a serious limitation, particularly when formatting a spreadsheet. Keyboard shortcuts that will work on one platform but not another seriously hinders my use of Google docs in general. (That said, I use Google Documents a lot and wish I could use it for more.)


Google Spreadsheets doesn't have Pivot Tables built in. For any serious data analysis that could be a real deal breaker.

However, it does appear that there are apps in the marketplace that add this functionality in, for example:

Google Apps Marketplace

  • 3
    -1 This is no longer true. Google Spreadsheets fully supports pivot tables now by default. Commented Jan 14, 2012 at 2:48
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    It doesn't even have a decent cell format for dates... dd/mm/yyyy (dddd), etc. for 21/09/2013 (Sunday)... with Weekday... you need to have a long hack to make a simple date format... and many more.. Google Spreadsheet is for simple use only... not for anything so serious.
    – ihightower
    Commented May 29, 2013 at 10:38
  • @pnuts thanks for the info.. yes that's great. i haven't checked other new features.. but am sure it will still have a long way to go to reach MS Excel.
    – ihightower
    Commented Feb 22, 2014 at 4:27

Besides what's already been said:

Lack of text-to-column parsing.

That is, if I have a raw string like


It's trivial to have Excel quickly do a text-to-columns on that, using | as a delimiter. Making data formatting as simple as possible is crucial to people who need to create or interact with data tables on a regular basis.

(You can get much more creative with its use; I regularly format complex, messy data sets with just a few text-to-column interations.)

Update (Evan): This isn't built-in feature but it can be added

The first technique uses some spreadsheet function magic

In cell B2 paste the following:


Then paste your data starting with cell A2. As soon as you enter the data it will automatically split the combined values to a value-per-column using the '|' as a delimiter.

Here's credit to the original author of this approach.

The second approach uses some scripting magic to extend Docs


Tools -> Script editor...

Paste the following:

function onOpen() {
  var ss = SpreadsheetApp.getActiveSpreadsheet();
  var menuEntries = [];
  menuEntries.push({ name:"Text to column", functionName:"textToColumn" });
  menuEntries.push({ name:"Text to column (custom separator)", functionName:"txtToColumnCustom" });
  ss.addMenu("Advanced", menuEntries);

function txtToColumnCustom() {
  var separator = Browser.inputBox("Text to column","Enter the the separator",Browser.Buttons.OK);

function textToColumn(separator) {
  var sep = typeof(separator) != 'undefined' ? separator : ',';
  var ss = SpreadsheetApp.getActiveSheet(); 
  var c = ss.getActiveCell();
  var input = c.getValue();
  var values = input.split(sep);
  var row = c.getRow();
  var col = c.getColumn();
  ss.getRange(row,col,1,values.length).setValues(new Array(values));

Save and close the script editor. Then, refresh the spreadsheet. It'll take a second to load but you should see a menu called 'Advanced' popup after 'Help' in the toolbar.

To use it:

  • Select the cell containing the values
  • Select 'Advanced' -> 'Text to column (custom separator)'
  • When the prompt pops up enter '|' (without quotes) into the field and hit enter

It's magic, it'll automatically split the values out into columns. If you were wondering the non-custom 'Text to column' function uses commas as separators.

This version only works on one row at a time. I have been doing a lot of custom Google Apps Scripting lately so it literally only took about 20-30 minutes to get this from concept to working. If you want one where you can select and split multiple rows just request it in the comments or use the formula above.

Whatever you do, don't underestimate the power of Google Apps Scripting. In the right hands, it is capable of doing amazing things.


If you're just looking for rows/columns to insert data, then Google Spreadsheets are the way to go. Two really cool applications for Google Spreadsheets is using it to create a live Feedback form for any website (if you know how to edit HTML, then you can even take the attributes from the Google Form and use your own website's HTML and CSS to format the form). Also, Google allows for great collaboration (although if you're on a local network, sharing an Excel workbook does the same thing).

A webapp that is, in my opinion, more powerful than Google Spreadsheet is Zoho Sheets. Zoho has both very good VBA support as well as pivot tables.

For anything else, sorry, but you're going to have to shell out the money to Microsoft.


I would say the two that I notice are:

  • Lack of spell check
  • Not as many chart types built in, in particular, basic charts for stocks.

Google spreadsheets formatting is limited compared to the newer versions of Excel (2007+). I have found it much easier to create usable spreadsheets with a decent UI using Excel than Google Spreadsheets - everything I do with the latter looks like Excel 2003!

Google spreadsheets does web interaction much better than Excel (retrieving info from the web such as share prices, web searches etc).


I can't speak to a specific limitation but Google Spreadsheets do things differently than MS Excel. For instance if you need to program in excel you will use VBA. If you are going to program in Google Spreadsheets you will need to use javascript.

I am pretty sure that you will not get to keep your macro's when you import a spreadsheet from Excel into Google Spreadsheets. If that is an issue for you then you might not want to convert.

In general Google Spreadsheets can do a lot of the same things but you may find ease of use things like some of the advanced chart and graph features that exist in Excel either don't exist and must be built, require an app from the marketplace, or are just harder to use. Google is continuously updating their product though so it will get closer.

Since Google apps are free, I would spend about a 2 weeks trying out Spreadsheet. If you haven't run into anything stopping you then you are probably not going to have any issues.

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    I won't downvote, but I wouldn't consider GSpreadsheet using Javascript over VB a limitation. Neither would I consider the lack of macro cross compatibility with Excel a limitation either, I'd consider it a limitation of Excel that it doesn't support the more widely used and universal Javascript for macros. Commented Jul 7, 2010 at 22:05
  • @Evan - I Agree with you. My point was when you have code in one language it takes time and/or money to convert to another language. In this case from VBA to JavaScript. In general, I would assume JavaScript can do everything (and probably much more) than VBA but I don't know the differences well enough to say for sure. Regardless effort would be involved in converting macros. Commented Jul 8, 2010 at 13:27
  • The only reason I brought it up is. In a 1-1 comparison of Google Spreadsheets to Excel this isn't a feature limitation. It's only a disadvantage if you're migrating an Excel spreadsheet containing macros to Google Spreadsheets. Commented Jul 8, 2010 at 17:34
  • Er... the first sentence in Ben's paragraph says, "I can't speak to a specific limitation but Google Spreadsheets do things differently", so he pretty clearly isn't saying that it's a feature limitation, just a difference. Commented Jul 20, 2010 at 5:12
  • Sorry, I downvoted because you gave incorrect advice. You said "Conditional Formatting ... either don't exist and must be built". Just yesterday I was working in Excel and shocked that I could not do Conditional Formatting on text content in a cell when Google Docs does allow "Change colors with rules" which has more rules available. Commented Jul 20, 2010 at 6:38

The Google spreadsheet cells are always collapsed. Information put in those cells with linefeed does not appear properly. This happens when you download those spreadsheets and open them in either Open Office or MS Office.

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