Best free and open source Microsoft Excel alternatives

One staple that runs through businesses is spreadsheets. They are not exciting, but are unbelievably useful in almost every business setting.

Most people opt for the convenience and familiar interface of Microsoft Excel, or more increasingly Google Sheets, but there are many free and open source alternatives giving these tech giants a run for their money.

Often open source alternatives to big popular software are bare, offering sometimes limited functions. And using a stripped-back spreadsheet client isn't for everyone. Most people feel comfortable with Excel or Google because they know where everything is and how to perform common work tasks.

But there is a lot to be said about using a bare-bones spreadsheet application. You aren't tied to a monthly subscription or big one off payment like you are with Microsoft and you can do tasks simply without over complicating the whole process.

We've listed some of the top Microsoft Excel alternatives...

Read next: The best cloud-based spreadsheet software options

Additional reporting by Thomas Macaulay and Laurie Clarke

Apache Calc

Apache Calc

Released in 2004 as part of Apache OpenOffice, Calc is a free open source office suite featuring a word 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.

Apache Calc is designed for business use and includes 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 calculations and natural language formulas 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, macOS and Linux

Airtable

Airtable

Businesses use spreadsheets for a wide range of functions, from keeping monetary records to creating graphs and workflows. But a lot of businesses also use spreadsheets as easily accessible databases, which the software really lends itself to.

Airtableis slightly different from others listed as it provides a spreadsheet/database hybrid, able to function as a database via a spreadsheet interface.

Like regular spreadsheet software, Airtable users can create tables, add columns and publish to the web or internal sites.

It's standout features include, linking tables, which means that linking data can be spread out across numerous tables rather than creating a single large table. It also adopts Google's collaborative nature, allowing multiple people to work on one spreadsheet simultaneously.

Airtable users can also create and support data capture forms which can be embedded in websites and supported by your database.

Gnumeric

Gnumeric

Gnumericis 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. It's an open-source spreadsheet programme.

The main difference between Gnumeric and Excel is the comparative lack of styling tools 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

Calligra Sheets

Calligra Sheets

Part of the Calligra Suite family, Calligra Sheets is a free spreadsheet and data calculation tool that provides users with a worksheet templates, style tools and a comprehensive formula list to automate formula creation. It supports multiple sheets per document, charts, spell-check, data sorting and scripting with Python, Ruby and JavaScript.

While Calligra Sheets offers a good alternative to Excel as it can reproduce most of the features available in the Microsoft product, only beta support is available on Windows and macOS.

Operating systems: Linux, BSD, and Unix. Preliminary support for Windows and macOS

LibreOffice

LibreOffice

LibreOfficeis a free and open source office suite that was forked from OpenOffice in 2010. The product includes Calc, a spreadsheet creator, editor and viewer that combines an intuitive interface with advanced styles and formatting features.

Calc offers templates with built-in functions and numerous formatting options, a 'Scenario Manager' that provides analysis of hypothetical forecasts and DataPilot technology to pull in raw data from corporate databases and convert it into insights.

Operating systems: Microsoft Windows, macOS, and Linux LibreOffice Viewer for Android

EtherCalc

EtherCalc

EtherCalcis a free web spreadsheet programme that runs in a similar manner to Google Sheets. It enables users to save data to the web, share editing permissions and reflect everybody's changes instantly on all screens.

While EtherCalc doesn't provide the same breadth of features as some of its competitors on this list, it does offer one of the simplest collaborative spreadsheet applications available.

The bare-bones approach definitely works for those wanting a simple spreadsheet that doesn't sacrifice usability and aesthetics.

Operating systems: Linux, FreeBSD, macOS and Windows.

Pyspread

Pyspread

Pyspread bills itself as a non-traditional spreadsheet based on and written in Python, and targets users with experience of that programming language. Each grid cell in Psyspread is evaluated as a Python expression, making a spreadsheet-specific language obsolete.

Features include CSV and XLS import and export, charts for visualising data, video playback in cells, spell checker and code completion. Apple users beware: macOS is currently unsupported, despite reports to the contrary.

Operating systems: macOS, OpenBSD

ONLYOFFICE

ONLYOFFICE

ONLYOFFICEis an opensource office suite aimed at business users. While OnlyOffice is mostly a paid package, there are free community editions available for download here.

The paid version comes in at $75 per month minimum for a cloud service with hikes in price for each package upgrade.

It lets you run a full-featured web office on your own server and is completely compatible with Microsoft Office formats.

It boasts a number of features including document management, CRM and calendar in addition to the spreadsheet function. It works on all operating systems and is also available on the App Store and Google Play.

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