Nine free and open source Microsoft Excel alternatives business-users should consider
Spreadsheets are a staple for both small and large businesses, data analysts and marketers among others, most opting for the convenience and familiar interface of Microsoft Excel. But there are many options out there from Google, Apache, Libre and more offering free and open source alternatives.
We've listed seven of the top Microsoft Excel alternatives you should consider this year...
Read next: 11 Google Sheets tips for businesses 2016
1. Free Microsoft Excel alternatives: Apache Calc
Released in 2004 as part of Apache OpenOffice, Calc is a free open source office suite featuring a Word-style processor, spreadsheet application, database manager, drawing application and presentation work-space. This Excel alternative is written in C++ and Java and is available in 38 different languages.
Designed for business use, Apache Calc offers DataPilot, an advanced tool that pulls raw data from large corporate databases. From there users can cross-tabulate and summarise this information into meaningful data. Other 'smart' features include an 'intelligent sum button' (for automating sums) and natural language formula that generate formulas using words.
What's more, as Apache OpenOffice is an open source platform, it can be adjusted and personalised to best suit your business and your working style.
Operating systems: Windows, Mac OSX and Linux
2. Free Microsoft Excel alternatives: Google Sheets
Google Sheets offers a free cloud-based spreadsheet platform for users to create and edit documents online and access them offline as well. Away from the standard spreadsheet format, Google Sheets can create QR codes, data heat maps and custom Google Maps, all of which Excel is unable to do.
Google Sheets saves inputted data automatically, with documents being backed up in Google's cloud. Unlike Excel, Google Sheet documents can be accessed from any computer or tablet via a Google login making geographically active businesses lives a lot easier.
Google Sheets (as part of Google Apps) can officially run on Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari and Chrome.
Operating systems: Windows, Apple OS X, and Linux
3. Free Microsoft Excel alternatives: ThinkFree Calc
Like Apache OpenOffice, ThinkFree offers Write (word processor), Calc (spreadsheet) and Show (presentation editor) programmes. ThinkFree runs a similar interface to Microsoft Excel, with users able to create, edit and provide raw data analytics.
Initially released 15 years ago, ThinkFree has undergone some major changes and now offers an online services enabling users to access, edit and create spreadsheets via its web-based platform which provides users with 1GB of online storage across its online suite.
Operating systems: Windows, Linux, Mac and Android (A free trial is available for all but after that it's £44.90).
4. Free Microsoft Excel alternatives: Sheetster
Sheetster is a stand-alone web-based spreadsheet editor, creator and viewer aimed at small to medium-sized businesses as well as larger enterprises.
Sheetster can export spreadsheets to PDF, supports conditional formatting, split panes and real-time multi-user editing. It can also export Excel files, so switching over to Sheetster should be relatively easy.
When comparing Sheetster to Excel it's clear they share a very similar interface, with users being able to perform most actions found on Microsoft's spreadsheet software. However, it's open-sourced nature enables businesses to store this programme in any database or file system, for example, a local server for offline use.
Operating systems: Linux, Unix, Windows XP, Vista, 7, Server 2003 or newer, Mac OSX.
5. Free Microsoft Excel alternatives: Gnumeric
Gnumeric is part of the GNOME Free Software Desktop Project which was launched in 2001 with the intention of relieving the dependency on other suites such as Microsoft Office.
The main difference between Gnumeric and Excel is the (slight) lack of styling tools present in the Gnumeric software. The interface is somewhat bare compared to Excel, but for some this simple design is a welcome break from the sometimes overwhelming look of Microsoft Excel.
Operating systems: Unix, BSD, Linux
6. Free Microsoft Excel alternatives: Calligra Sheets
While Calligra Sheets offers a good alternative to Microsoft Excel (as it can reproduce most Excel features), it is only fully supported on Linux, BSD and Unix with only beta support available on Windows and Mac OSX.
7. Free Microsoft Excel alternatives: LibreOffice
'Cousins' with Apache OpenOffice, LibreOffice is a free and open source office suite that offers Calc, a spreadsheet creator, editor and viewer. As LibreOffice is a native application, collaborating shared works is not as easy as it is with Google Sheets, as online collaboration requires users to download a document editing and sending them back, normally via email. Although, the open source nature of LibreOffice means most aspects of its working can be changed to match your business processes.
Operating systems: Microsoft Windows, OS X, and Linux LibreOffice Viewer for Android
8. Free Microsoft Excel alternatives: Siag Office
Siag Office provides an office suite including a spreadsheet, word processor animation programme, text editor and file manager.
SIAG (Scheme In A Grid) is very compact and lightweight so is ideal for users running older operating systems with small amounts of RAM installed (around 16MB RAM). One (potentially major) drawback of this compact design is that it is light on features that other more durable office suites and spreadsheet programmes have to offer.
What's more, its latest version was released in 2006 so those looking for a squeaky new spreadsheet programme will have to look elsewhere.
9. Free Microsoft Excel alternatives: EtherCalc
EtherCalc is a free open source spreadsheet programme that runs on Linux, FreeBSD, Mac OS X and Windows.
Running a slightly similar shop to Google Sheets, EtherCalc enables users to save data to the web, share editing permissions and reflect changes are instantly on all screens.
While EtherCalc is not a full-featured spreadsheet programme compared to some listed, it does offer one of the simplest collaborate spreadsheet applications out there.
The bare-bones approach definitely works for those wanting something simple but not stripped back in terms of usability and aesthetics.
A strategy that involves challenging the dominance of Microsoft Office seems doomed, but LibreOffice may have a chance.
The Google Docs word processor and Sheets spreadsheet apps for iPads and iPhones could already be used while disconnected from the Internet
Open Document Format goes from strength to strength