Cheaper Options to Excel

  Tall 18:27 18 Aug 2004


My daughter will need to use Microsoft Excel at university, but the cost of buying Microsoft Office, even allowing for the student discount, is excessive, especially as she already has Word and Microsoft Works.

The spreadsheet in Works is too limited, and Star Office's did not seem to be sufficiently compatible with Excel.

Are there any other options that are highly compatible with MS Excel?

Many thanks

  smokingbeagle 18:53 18 Aug 2004
  pmjd 20:24 18 Aug 2004

Sorry smokingbeagle but Openoffice isn't good enough yet, it lacks a lot of features for graphical data plotting that you need for uni. The newer version won't be ready till Feb 2005 at the earliest and I don't know how much they have improved calc (the excel equivalent).

There are a few other options, like Ability office but I don't know if it would be advanced enough.
Softmaker's Planmaker 2004 claims to have excellent excel importing compared to Staroffice click here

It's available click here for £33 (at current exchange rate).

Hope this helps,

  Jarvo 20:24 18 Aug 2004

As a full time student you can get a massive discount on MS software under their Student select seem MS office professional for £94. now this may sound expensive but it is about £400 retail and if your daughter needs to use some of the more advanced features of Excel like VBA this is the only guarantied way of compatibility between her home and collage work (you will also get the full versions of Word, access, publisher, powerpiont and Outlook). Plus she will get used to working on an industry standard application. Pugh are very helpfull if you ask they may even be able to supply excel on its own.

click here



  pmjd 20:25 18 Aug 2004

I missed the link click here that will give you a 30 day trial. At least you can try before you buy!

  Taran 20:59 18 Aug 2004

Depending on the nature of your daughter's course(s) then the question you need to ask is do you need something that can perform broadly similar functions to Excel ?

The reason I mention this is that if she is studying a course that requires her to learn and work extensively in Excel, then she really needs Excel. No other product on the market mirrors Excel or its functionality and although StarOffice (quite inexpensive) and OpenOffice (free to download and use) both feature good spreadhseet applications, if your daughter will be placing heavy demands on Excel by using Macros, VBA and VB, not to mention some of the more complex functions found in the drop down menus like Pivot Tables, alternative programs simply won't cope with editing the files created in Excel.

Compatability is all well and good up to a point and the ability to open, edit and save as Excel documents is vital, but once you get into the heavier features of Excel no other program is currently available that can cope with the documents you create using it.

Obviously if her needs will be more modest then ignore the above. I just don't like the idea that you may go for a large download (Open Office) or a less epxensive office suite (StarOffice) in the hopes of having an application which will do everything Excel will, because nothing out there can do that, and nothing out there is used to any great degree in the real world other than Excel.

Good luck with it.

  pmjd 21:15 18 Aug 2004

What is your daughter's course? Is it likely to be excel or spreadsheet intensive?

Also, could she use excel at the university computers and simply paste in any graphs or results into a word document for writting up reports in the comfort of her accomodation?

  pmjd 21:15 18 Aug 2004

What is your daughter's course? Is it likely to be excel or spreadsheet intensive?

Also, could she use excel at the university computers and simply paste in any graphs or results into a word document for writting up reports in the comfort of her accomodation?

  Tall 21:42 18 Aug 2004

Thanks for all the replies. She'll be doing sports science which, as I understand it, will require a fair amount of spreadsheet work.

I think we might hold on until she's sure what is needed - although from what she's done already, Star Office's spreadsheet just doesn't cut the mustard.

  Simsy 06:19 19 Aug 2004

when you say, "Star Office's spreadsheet just doesn't cut the mustard.", do you mean that it doesn't offer enough features, (e.g VBA and functions), or do you mean that it doesn't read Excel files accurately enough?

If it's the first of these that's the problem then I think you'll need to bite the bullet and go for Excel, as suggested by Taran. If, however, it's a "conversion to/from Excel" issue, make sure that your daughter is really trying all the options; There is a feature that StarOffice/OpenOffice has called "autopilot". I can't remember exactly how to access it, but I do remember that it wasn't obvious. Basically you open an Excel file and then the autopilot makes another copy of it in the StarOffice format. I found this to be extremely efficient.

Another alternative is Ability Office. Version 4 has been in Beta for some time, and a full release is imminent, (a couple of weeks or so I've just been emailed by them). The current version is effective at dealing with Excel files and the new version is alledged to be more so. It has comprehensive macro ability, (though not VBA).

You can download a free 30 day trial, and it's quite cheap if you decide to buy. Definately worth a look. click here

Good luck,



  Forum Editor 07:06 19 Aug 2004

In her future working life - whatever she does - your daughter is certainly going use Excel, and it seems to me to be a false economy now, at the start of her university course to be considering alternatives.

Frankly there just isn't anything on the market that does what Excel does, or does it as well. With her student discount your daughter can get MS Office at a massive discount, and I can hardly think of a better home for part of her first student loan cheque. She'll be glad she took the plunge.

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