With over 1 billion end users, spreadsheets remain the most popular business application in the world. As of 2022, the majority of spreadsheet users still leverage Microsoft Excel. But Google Sheets, by enhancing spreadsheet collaboration, is increasingly stealing market share from Excel.
Nevertheless, Excel remains dominant in many sectors, particularly in legacy industries. As a result, even teams that work exclusively in Google Sheets end up encountering Excel spreadsheets.
But that doesn’t mean these teams have to work out of Excel. Google Sheets can easily convert Excel files into Google spreadsheets. This allows them to remain in the spreadsheet platform they prefer.
Here’s a step-by-step guide on the best ways to convert Excel files to Google spreadsheets.
Excel to Google Sheets: Supported File Types
Since 2007, Excel’s default file format has been the .xlsx file. Before that, the default file format was .xls. Google Sheets can convert both .xls and .xlsx files into Google spreadsheets.
Quick refresher: a .xls file stores spreadsheet data in a single binary file. But a .xlsx file is based on the Open XML format, and stores data as separate files and folders in a compressed ZIP package.
Google Sheets can also convert other spreadsheet files created by Excel. These include:
How to Convert Excel Files to Google Sheets
Google Sheets offers several simple, built-in ways to convert Excel files to Google Sheets. You can upload Excel spreadsheets to Google Drive, add new sheets with Excel data, automate the conversion process, and more.
Here’s a complete walkthrough on how to streamline the process of converting Excel files into Google spreadsheets.
Convert Excel File from Google Drive
You can upload an Excel file directly to Google Drive, and then convert it into a Google spreadsheet in a few steps.
First, navigate to your Google Drive homepage. Click New -> File Upload.
Then select the Excel file that you want to upload from your device.
Press Open, and the Excel file will upload to Google Drive.
Click on the file to open it in Google Sheets.
This will allow you to edit the .xlsx file using the Google Sheets interface. However, if you want to convert the .xlsx file into a Google spreadsheet, you must explicitly save the file as such.
To do this, click File -> Save as Google Sheets.
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And, voila — the Excel file is converted into a Google spreadsheet.
Automatically Convert Excel Files into Google Spreadsheets
With the right settings, you can skip this last step altogether, so you don’t have to manually save the Excel file as a Google spreadsheet. You can actually automatically convert any uploads to Google Drive into Google Docs (in this case, Google Sheets).
Here’s how. Click on the Gear Shaft on the Google Drive homepage. Then click Settings.
In the Settings menu, navigate to General -> Convert uploads and check the box. This will automatically convert all of your uploaded files to Google Docs editor format.
From now on, when you upload Excel files, they will automatically convert into Google spreadsheets as soon as you open them.
Convert Excel File From Google Spreadsheet
You can also convert Excel files directly from Google Sheets. This allows you to supplement your Google spreadsheet data with data from Excel.
Here’s how to do it. Open a Google spreadsheet and click File -> Import.
Choose the Excel file you want to import. You can pick files you’ve already uploaded to Google Drive, or you can upload a new file.
Let’s upload a new file. Click on the Upload tab and select an Excel file from your device.
Once the Excel file is uploaded, you can choose how to import the spreadsheet using the drop-down box.
Here’s a summary of each option:
- Create new spreadsheet – Convert the Excel spreadsheet into a new Google spreadsheet
- Insert new sheet(s) – Insert the Excel spreadsheet as a separate sheet in the current Google spreadsheet
- Replace spreadsheet – Entirely replace the current spreadsheet with the Excel spreadsheet
Let’s pick Insert new sheet(s). Choose Import Theme to preserve the theme of the Excel spreadsheet. Now click Import data.
The Excel data is automatically placed on a separate sheet within the current spreadsheet.
Convert Google Sheets to Excel
Google Sheets also makes it very easy to convert Google spreadsheets to Excel files. Simply click File -> Download -> Microsoft Excel (.xlsx).
This will download the current Google spreadsheet as an Excel file. You can also download the spreadsheet in file formats that are compatible with Excel, such as .csv and .tsv.
Excel to Google Sheets: What are the Limitations?
In most cases, converting an Excel file to Google Sheets is seamless. The platforms are relatively interoperable for most use cases, and Google Sheets makes importing Excel files straightforward.
However, in certain scenarios, converting an Excel file to Google Sheets is not ideal, optimal or feasible. Here are some limitations to watch out for:
- Spreadsheet size – Google Sheets just recently increased the maximum number of cells per spreadsheet to 10 million, still well below the billions of cells Excel spreadsheets can handle. Hence, you cannot upload Excel files with more than 10 million cells into Google Sheets.
- VBA – Google Sheets cannot use Visual Basic for Applications (VBA). VBA macros in Excel won’t work in Google spreadsheets. Sheets uses Google App Script (GAS) for scripting.
- Links to workbooks – If your Excel file has links to other workbooks, Google Sheets will not be able to retrieve or edit them. Sheets can only access the Excel files you’ve uploaded.
- Advanced data modeling – Google Sheets cannot implement some of the advanced data modeling capabilities of Excel, including Power Query and Power Pivot.
Now let’s look at the reverse — converting Google spreadsheets into Excel files. In this case, you’re not just losing the collaboration of Google Sheets. Excel also does not support several functions in Google Sheets, including:
If you convert a Google spreadsheet to .xlsx, and it contains one of these functions, you’ll likely have to rewrite the formula in Excel to avoid breakages.
Convert Excel to Google Sheets: Work from the Spreadsheet Platform You Prefer
Google Sheets makes it simple to convert Excel files into Google spreadsheets. On the flip side, Sheets also allows you to easily download Google spreadsheets as Excel files.
Although incompatibility between Excel and Sheets is possible, most users will not run into difficulties during the conversion process. This flexibility allows you to work in the spreadsheet platform you prefer.
And with Coefficient, you can blend real-time data from your business systems with Excel files, CSVs, and and other sources in Google Sheets. Try Coefficient for free now to streamline data analysis in Google Sheets.