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Tech Tip: Finding Alternatives to Microsoft Excel

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The New York Times

Q. What other programs can open Excel files?

A. If you do not have access to a copy of Microsoft Excel — and do not want to use the browser-based version included with the Office Online suite — you can go with a non-Microsoft product to open spreadsheets created in the Open Office XML Spreadsheet (.xlsx) format. Many of the alternative programs can also open files created in Excel’s older .xls format, along with other common file types like OpenDocument Spreadsheet (.ods), comma-separated values files (.csv) and text documents (.txt).

For example, if you are looking for software to install on your Windows-, OS X- or Linux-based computer so you can work without an internet connection, consider free, open-source suites like LibreOffice or Apache OpenOffice. Along with word-processing and presentation applications, both suites include a spreadsheet program called Calc that uses the .ods format — but can open and save files in Microsoft Excel’s native format.

You can also convert Excel files to the .ods format, but some of the original file’s formatting and features may get lost in translation. People with Excel can often save their spreadsheets as .ods files for sharing with LibreOffice/Apache OpenOffice users.

Apple’s Numbers program, the spreadsheet component of its iWork productivity suite for iCloud, OS X and iOS, can also open and edit Microsoft Excel files. Numbers is free on most new Mac computers and iOS devices, but it costs less than $20 from Apple’s online app stores.

If you already have a Gmail account or an Android device, the free Google Sheets (part of the company’s online Google Docs suite) can be used to open and edit Excel files. You need to either convert the Excel files to Google’s format or edit them in a “compatibility mode.” An extension for Google’s Chrome browser called “Office Editing for Docs, Sheets and Slides” allows you to drag Microsoft Office files into the browser window so you can easily view, convert and edit them.

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