Difference Between Microsoft Excel & Apple Numbers

By Micah McDunnigan

Excel includes more advanced functions at a higher price tag.
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Microsoft's Office suite has long been the predominant player in the productivity software market, but a number of alternative productivity suites have emerged to contend as alternatives. Among these are Apple's iWork suite and its Numbers spreadsheet application. While similar, Excel and Numbers have a few notable differences in operating system support, built-in functions, and pricing.

System Compatibility

Microsoft maintains separate versions of Excel, and the rest of its office suite, for both Windows and OS X, as well as Windows 8 tablets. However, Microsoft does not necessarily release a new version the Office suite for Mac every time it releases a new version for Windows. Apple produces its iWork suite exclusively for OS X and iOS.

File Formats

Numbers is capable of reading and saving files in both Excel's ".xls" and ".xlsx" formats. Numbers also has its own format, which Excel can neither read nor edit. This enables you to shuttle and work on Excel files between computers that have Excel and Numbers, but you can work on Numbers spreadsheets only on Mac computers with iWork.


Microsoft Excel has a multitude of pre-loaded formulas and functions, and even more that you can add through expansion packs. Numbers lacks some of the more advanced formulas and functions of Excel, such as pivot tables. However, Apple's spreadsheet software is still fully-featured. It has over 250 functions that span statistical analysis, engineering, finance and a variety of other categories. While Excel has more built-in functions, on the whole, only users who employ very advanced analytical techniques would miss the missing functions in Numbers.


As of October 2013, Excel is more expensive than Numbers. Apple sells the applications of its iWork suite individually, and you can purchase it for $19.99 from the Mac App store. Microsoft sells Excel individually for $109.99 or as part of Office Suite packages that vary from $139.99 to $399.99 depending on the other applications in the set. You can also choose subscription-based services that give you full access to the most recent versions of Excel, and the rest of the Office suite, for either $9.99 a month or $99.99 a year.