Save spreadsheets and money with Accel

This free spreadsheet offers a viable alternative to the big suites.

Accel Spreadsheet is part of SSuite Office, a freeware alternative to Microsoft Office. Accel is to SSuite as Excel is to Office, functioning equally well in both standalone and integrated mode. Accel can save files in Excel format as well as text, CSV, and native formats, making it widely compatible not only with Excel but also other spreadsheets and financial tools. While we could open and edit most of the Excel formatted files we created with Accel, the free tool couldn't access Excel files created in Office 2010. However, the capability to create files Excel can open is more important than the capability to edit Excel-created files.

Accel's layout closely resembles earlier versions of Excel, as does nearly every other spreadsheet tool out there; like a business suit, uniformity has advantages in business software. Accel lacks Excel's ribbon-style toolbar and packs fewer features, but we don't want to imply that it's lacking in any real sense. Far from it: it's a full-featured, enterprise-class spreadsheet tool, including a direct database connection and some nice extras like a Draw tool menu that let us easily draw or paint in custom additions. We could also add shapes, images, and other objects to our spreadsheets. A fully indexed and searchable Help file is there when you need it.

As we noted, we created and saved a variety of test sheets in Accel and Excel, with the results we expected: the pricey Office app easily handled compatible files created with the freeware, but the freeware balked at the premium app's native files. While it's something of a one-way street, at least the direction favors the freeware. We also tried Accel inside SSuite's free office productivity suite, Excalibur, and found it to be as good a performer as the standalone installation. Those users new to spreadsheets should have little trouble learning its ways, and Excel vets will jump right in. By itself or as part of the bundle, we recommend it to anyone looking for a cost-effective alternative to Excel.

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