Excel For Web: A Comprehensive Guide

The significance of cloud systems in the workplace of the future is undeniable. 

And Excel for Web is an excellent example of a cloud-based tool that aligns with the needs of modern businesses. Spreadsheet management has long been a vital part of operational tasks.

In fact, having a cloud strategy has become so important for businesses that Gartner predicts that over 85% of organisations will adopt a cloud-first approach by 2025. 

With an Excel web app, employee collaboration for data analysis, decision-making, and reporting is now easier than ever before. 

But is the shift from Microsoft Excel to Excel for Web worth it? Before deciding, let’s learn more about the Excel app below.

Several people around a table working together and using smartphones and laptops.
Source: pexels.com

Why Use Excel For Web?

As far as I can remember, I’ve only ever used Excel’s desktop version. So, when the time came to try out Microsoft Excel online, I wasn’t too eager to take the leap. 

While I was only there to test the web version, the various uses I’ve highlighted below made me a permanent Excel user of the online workbook. Now, let’s explore them one by one:

Real-Time Collaboration

Multiple users can use Excel for the Web to work on the same spreadsheet at the same time

So, if you were previously sending an Excel file back and forth between your co-workers after completing the task assigned to you, you no longer have to do that with the online version. 

For instance, while I perform calculations, my partner can create a chart based on those numbers. This is just one of the many uses of the Excel web app that can help businesses avoid version conflicts. 


With the Excel desktop app, you can only access files on your desktop computer. But with Excel online, I can be sitting at a coffee shop and still be able to monitor project progress through my smartphone, laptop, or even someone else’s computer. 

This means you’re not tied to a specific device. You can perform work tasks even when you’re not at work. 


Integration With Microsoft 365

The best part about Excel for the Web is that it enables integration with Microsoft 365. As a result, you can transport your Excel sheet to any Microsoft application, such as OneDrive, PowerPoint, or Word. 

So, if you’re done preparing the sales report for 2024, you can slide that data into Mr X’s PowerPoint presentation or Word document instantly. This approach also ensures that all your important files are stored in a centralised location.

Automatic Updates

You no longer have to pause your tasks or wait for the IT guy to manually update your Excel desktop app. Microsoft updates Excel online automatically, so you can always have access to its latest features and security upgrades. 

Cloud-Based Approach

Today’s work environments demand a cloud-based approach, and the web version of Microsoft Excel succeeds in delivering that. Apart from the features highlighted above, this cloud app also offers enhanced security, disaster recovery, and scalability

Hand with a pen pointing at a document with graphs.
Source: pexels.com

Basic Functionalities For Excel For Web

The functionalities of Excel for Web are very similar to those of the desktop version. Let’s look at some of them in detail.

  • Spreadsheet creation: You can either create a new Excel spreadsheet or upload an existing one from your device or cloud storage. The user-friendly platform makes it easy to locate prompts and set up sheets.
  • Formula application: All the Excel formulas you’ve learned for the desktop app can be applied to the online version, whether they are simple arithmetic ones or statistical, financial, or logical functions
  • Data manipulation: You can sort, filter, and even spell-check your data to present it in a more polished way. Features like conditional formatting and pivot tables are also provided for better manipulation of data points. 
  • Chart and graph creation: From bar charts, line graphs, and pie charts to scatter plots, users can use visual options to breathe life into endless sets of data. Customisation options can enable you to match the trends to your preferences.
  • Collaboration tools: Options like comments and mentions make multi-user collaboration more convenient and enhance communication. 
  • Compatibility with Excel desktop: The Excel desktop app is compatible with the Excel web app. You can begin a project on the desktop version and complete it with the online version without any loss of data or functionality errors.
  • AutoSave: You won’t have to break into a cold sweat if you accidentally switch off your device without saving your Excel sheet. Microsoft Excel for the web autosaves your work in real time. 

When Excel For Web Is Most Useful

Excel online can be a real lifesaver in situations where collaboration, mobility, and meeting deadlines are required. 

The trend of remote work has allowed businesses to hire employees from different parts of the world. 

And Excel for web means you can even learn how to become a spreadsheet expert all while on the go!

For such teams where members do not share common time zones, Excel’s collaborative feature ensures that everyone can access up-to-date information, reducing the chances of miscommunication or errors. 

This ensures that all members are on the same track and that work progress isn’t halted because of issues like one member not having Excel on their desktop or the other being travelling and not having their computer with them to make quick edits. 

Pros And Cons Of Excel For Web


    • Familiar user interface: The page layout of Excel web is very similar to the desktop Mircosoft Excel desktop. This means you don’t have to invest a considerable amount of time learning where to find what. 
    • Easier collaboration: Do you want to access the marketing report created by the marketing manager so you can compare it with sales figures? Since Microsoft Excel is also a cloud-based app, you can easily access Excel files without waiting for someone else to forward them. 
    • No risk of losing desktop files: Are you worried that if you start using Excel online, you’ll lose all your previous files stored on the desktop? The good news is that both Excel versions are compatible, so you can conveniently transfer files from one format to another.


    • Internet dependency: While you can access online files offline, it’s important that you’ve downloaded the file first. If not, you’ll have to wait until you’re near an Internet connection again so you can download and work on it through the desktop version. 
    • Some missing features: Excel Web is still in its development phase. This means that some features, like VBA and Macros, are missing from the online app. 
    • Limited storage: If you’re working with an enormous data set, Excel online may not be the ideal choice. The platform can become unresponsive or lag when bombarded with loads of data.

Troubleshooting Common Excel For Web Issues

While the Microsoft Excel online version does have some helpful benefits, my experience with the app wasn’t so smooth in the beginning. 

Here are some problems encountered and their solutions, so you know what to do if you face the same issues as well.

  • Excel Web Issue #1: When I started working on Excel Web, I realised that the online app was missing many of the features that I used for my previous projects. 

Solution: If that happens with you too and is resulting in project inefficiencies, you can download the web file and start working on it through the desktop version and vice versa. This way, you can have the best of both worlds.

  • Excel Web Issue #2: The collaborative nature of Excel online presents a risk of data overwrites where team members may accidentally edit cells that are not under their jurisdiction. 

Solution: You can enable the lock cells feature to avoid unnecessary modifications like these.


Excel for Web has introduced game-changing benefits for businesses and employees. Not only do they save a considerable amount of time by working on the same project simultaneously, but they can also get more work done during their shift hours. 

This avoids unnecessary distractions that may arise while you’re waiting for the updated file to make new changes. 

Plus, if you’re ready to board the digital spaceship, Excel online is an excellent way to get started!



About Ben Richardson

Ben is a director of Acuity Training which he has been running for over 10 years.

He is a Natural Sciences graduate from the University of Cambridge and a qualified accountant with the ICAEW.

He previously worked as a venture capitalist and banker and so had extensive experience with Excel from building financial models before moving to learn SQL, Microsoft Power BI and other technologies more recently.