Microsoft Excel vs. Google Sheets: Which Is Better for Salesforce?

By Robert Gelo

Comparing two prominent spreadsheet tools is a good way to learn what steps are involved in preparing data for Salesforce import. Which one has more features, which one is easier to access, and which one is better for remote collaboration? 

One of the most important tasks you can do in your org is to import data into your Salesforce instance. Typically, the data will come in the form of spreadsheets that need to be imported into Salesforce. This process can be difficult, especially when dealing with a large number (thousands) of contacts. However, proper preparation of your spreadsheets can make it much easier.

Microsoft vs. Google

There are two main vendors of spreadsheet software: Microsoft and Google. While there are other providers, such as Apple, these two companies are the most common. You are likely to receive your raw data in one of these two formats.

Microsoft Excel is the Market Share King

According to Microsoft, there were over 1.2 billion users of their Office software in 2019. Moreover, Office 365 Commercial surpassed 200 million monthly active users in 2019, which means that these individuals have full access to Excel (at least in theory). Google, on the other hand, does not reveal the total number of G Suite users, but back in 2020, they did claim over 5 million paying G Suite subscribers.  

Microsoft Excel, which has been in use since 1987, is very likely to be used by established and large enterprises. So, in a nutshell:

  • It has been around for longer and has a more mature user base.
  • It has a wider range of features and functions.
  • It is more powerful and can handle larger datasets.
  • It is more widely used in businesses and organizations.
READ MORE: 11 Excel Tips Every Salesforce Admin Needs

Google Sheets is a “cloud era” software (very much like Salesforce). It is still gaining market share, and it will likely be used by younger companies (such as startups). This means that:

  • It is free to use and accessible from anywhere with an internet connection.
  • It is collaborative, so multiple people can work on the same spreadsheet at the same time (although Microsoft is offering similar capabilities).
  • It is cloud-based, so there is no need to worry about file storage or backups.

Data Formatting and Validation

So, Microsoft and Google are not going anywhere for now, and you will most likely receive your client data in XLS files. But even before you touch Salesforce, you can do a lot of data formatting and validation in Excel and/or Sheets.

Both Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets offer powerful formatting and validation features. Excel boasts a wide range of formatting options, enabling users to work with complex data types, apply formulas, and utilize advanced functions. Additionally, conditional formatting and data validation rules further enhance the accuracy of data. 

On the other hand, Google Sheets provides essential formatting options and basic data validation to ensure data accuracy, but it lacks some of the advanced features that Excel offers. Overall, Excel is better equipped to handle intricate data formatting requirements due to its more comprehensive formatting options.

Here is an example of how you can use data lookup and conditional formatting functions in Google Sheets.

Using AI for Data Validation

These days, generative AI tools such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Google Bard offer a lot of flexibility, and mostly at no cost. For example, AI can create a quick lookup or validation formula for Excel or Sheets in seconds. It’s important to remember that Excel and Sheets use slightly different formulas, so you have to specify which one you need. 

Example of a conversation with the AI to find an appropriate spreadsheet formula.
READ MORE: Generative AI and Safeguarding Salesforce Data

Field Mapping and Relationship Management

Accurate field mapping is crucial for importing data into Salesforce. Excel provides advanced features like named ranges, thus simplifying field mapping tasks. Formulas and lookup functions make it easier to manage relationships between records. 

On the other hand, Google Sheets offers similar functionality, but with fewer advanced features. While it can handle basic field mapping and simple relationships, Excel’s extensive capabilities give it an edge in complex mapping scenarios.

The process of data mapping is a crucial step that cannot be overlooked.

Collaboration and Accessibility

Google Sheets shines when it comes to collaboration and accessibility. Its cloud-based nature allows real-time collaboration, enabling multiple users to work simultaneously on the same sheet. Comments, chat, and revision history features enhance teamwork. 

With Excel, although it offers collaboration features via OneDrive or SharePoint, it lacks the real-time collaboration experience provided by Google Sheets. However, if offline access and robust desktop features are a priority, Excel offers a more comprehensive solution.

Data Volume and Performance

Managing large data volumes efficiently is essential for a successful Salesforce import. Excel’s desktop-based application allows for faster processing of large datasets compared to Google Sheets’ web-based platform. Excel’s powerful calculation engine and ability to handle large files make it better suited for data-intensive tasks. Google Sheets, while capable of handling moderate-sized datasets, may encounter performance limitations with extremely large data files.

READ MORE: Exploring the Salesforce Data Integration Landscape


Choosing the right tool for Salesforce data preparation depends on your specific requirements and preferences. Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets both have their strengths and weaknesses. If you prioritize robust data formatting, field mapping capabilities, and handling large datasets, Excel emerges as the winner. On the other hand, Google Sheets excels in collaboration and accessibility.

Consider your needs for data integrity, complexity, collaboration, and performance to make an informed decision. Remember: the choice between Excel and Google Sheets ultimately depends on your unique circumstances and workflows. 

The Author

Robert Gelo

A journalist and editor with a technical background, Robert has gained experience in marketing, advertising, public relations, and social media. He was introduced to Salesforce as the CMO of a consultancy.

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