Microsoft's Excel has been leading the way on spreadsheet software for more than 30 years.
A key component of the hugely successful Microsoft Office productivity suite, it has become a hugely valuable tool for businesses around the world. However, while an Office 365 subscription makes perfect sense in the corporate world, it might not be suitable for you. In this article, we'll show you how to use Microsoft Excel completely legally and free of charge.
Option 1 - Web Version
Accessing Microsoft Excel and other core Office programs is free via the web, and all you'll need is a Microsoft account. Head over to Office.com and create an account, or log into one that you already have.
Once you’re logged into your Microsoft account on office.com you’ll find yourself presented with this screen:
At the top here you can select the App you wish to use, everything from Excel, Word and PowerPoint to Outlook and Skype. These are all ‘Web Apps’ which means they’re applications that you use online rather than them being installed on your computer. When you work on a file here, it will be saved to OneDrive, Microsoft's cloud storage service.
In fact, you probably have Google to thank for this software being available in web app form, as its free Docs and Sheets software and their integration with Google Drive made it difficult for Microsoft to keep asking users to pay.
If that's not a deciding factor between the two, check out our guide to the best cloud storage services.
The web version of Excel is a more stripped-back version of the software, so the comparison to Google Docs is more reasonable than the full desktop program. Nonetheless, both services should provide everything a regular user is looking for.
Make sure you take a look at the best free software for Windows right here.
Option 2 - Use on mobile
Perhaps again in response to Google, Microsoft's Office mobile applications are completely free and available across modern mobile devices. You can download the Microsoft Excel app for Android and iOS. While Microsoft understandably reserves some premium features for its Office 365 subscription, the mobile apps are still supremely capable and the perfect option if you're looking for some productivity on-the-go.
Option 3 - Get the full version
Of course, if only the fully-fledged version of Excel will do you'll need to subscribe to Office 365. Like Adobe, Microsoft prefer you pay a regular fee to access their software, as opposed to buying it outright.
On the plus side, this does get you regular updates, which should ensure it is more secure than a big annual release.
Subscriptions start at £5.99 a month, or £59.99 a year.
See more details in our guide to Microsoft Office, which goes into detail on Office 365.