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Microsoft Excel: free trials, tips, and top alternatives


Microsoft Excel is a vital and versatile spreadsheet app, used for everything from keeping shopping lists to analyzing business data. On the desktop side, Microsoft offers Windows and Mac access through an Office 365 subscription, a one-time purchase, or as part of the free Office Online. Excel is also available for Android, iOS, and Windows phones and tablets. The widely used spreadsheet offers calculation, charting and graphing tools, pivot tables, and other tools to help you create, edit, and share spreadsheets across platforms and via the cloud.

Microsoft Excel

  • • Get Microsoft Excel as a free download that you can try for 30 days
  • • Use Microsoft Excel Online for free via your browser
  • • Subscribe to Office 365, starting at $6.99 per month
  • • Buy Microsoft Excel 2016 as a standalone app

Microsoft Excel is a free download for Android or iOS, but you can only view documents. To create or edit docs, you'll have to pay for Office 365.

Microsoft Excel FAQs

  • What is the latest version of Microsoft Excel?
    The latest version, Excel 2016, is available for PCs running Window 7 or later; Macs running Mac OS Yosemite, El Capitan, or Sierra; and Android, iOS, and Windows phones and tablets.
  • What are my options for getting Microsoft Excel?

    Subscribe. Perhaps the easiest way to get Excel is by subscribing to Office 365, which gives you Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and other apps, plus the Web version of the spreadsheet and 1TB of online OneDrive storage. An Office 365 subscription starts at $6.99 per month.

    Buy. If you don't want to subscribe, you can purchase the Office 2016 suite for $149.99, which lets you edit and store your files in the cloud. A standalone copy of Excel 2016 costs $109.99. Check out the cons of buying vs. subscribing first.

    Get a free trial. If you need access for just a short time, a 30-day Office 365 trial gives you a free copy of Excel. With the trial, you get access to entire collection of Office 365 tools.

    Use the free Office Online. You can use Excel Online via a Web browser. This version offers many of same capabilities as the desktop version of Excel and lets you edit, share, and store your spreadsheets in the cloud.

  • Can I get an older version of Excel?
    If you're looking for a vintage version, such as Excel 2013, 2007, or 2003, those are no longer available from Microsoft. Even if you could find an outdated version on the Internet, we would not recommend installing it, because it may not be a safe file. Also, Microsoft's support lifecycle has ended for most of those products -- Excel 2010 support stopped in October 2015, for example -- meaning that those versions no longer get security patches and other updates.

Free Microsoft Excel alternatives

If you don't fancy the industry-standard Excel but still want to create and share spreadsheets, you have a couple free options.

Google Sheets

Part of the Google Drive suite of tools, Google Sheets lets you write, edit, and collaborate in the cloud for free.


Libre Office offers free productivity apps with similar features to Microsoft's Office tools.

Clifford Colby follows the Mac and Android markets for He's been an editor at Peachpit Press and a handful of now-dead computer magazines, including MacWeek, MacUser, and Corporate Computing.