Will Microsoft Excel Work on an Apple Computer?
By Anne Hirsh
Apple computers offer several ways to work with Excel on the Mac. Apple's own spreadsheet software, Numbers, will open and save files in Excel format, but you can also run full versions of Excel in either of two ways. The first is Office for Mac software, and the second is a Mac feature called Boot Camp.
Office for Mac
Microsoft makes a version of the Office suite specifically designed to run on Apple computers. Updates to this software generally come out at least a year after the Windows versions, but they are compatible with Office for Windows software and support most features that exist in the compatible Windows PC versions of the software. You can purchase Office for Mac through the Apple website or an Apple retail store, and once it is installed, you can create, read and edit Excel documents and share them with other Macs running Office for Mac software and Windows PCs running Excel.
Some Mac computers include a utility, called Boot Camp, that creates a separate hard drive partition on which you can install Windows. You can install a standard version of any compatible Windows operating system (most commonly Windows 7, Vista, or Windows XP) on your Mac in Boot Camp, and then install the Windows version of Excel. Boot Camp works only on Macs that use an Intel processing chip and run Mac OS 10.5 or newer operating system. When you use Boot Camp, you will install the standard Windows version of Excel, because it is running on a Windows operating system. You must purchase your own Windows and Excel installation discs; they do not come with the Mac.
Virtual machines are another method for working on Excel workbooks on Apple computers, but setting up a virtual machine requires a degree of technical skill, and the features are not always fully compatible. Using Apple's Numbers software can work well for basic Excel files, but advanced formatting and some other features may not be cross-compatible between Excel and Numbers, so you might lose some data as you transfer from one program to another, especially with complex spreadsheets. Open Office is another viable software option if you have relatively simple spreadsheets. This free software works on Macs and its spreadsheet module, called Calc, can open and save Excel files.
If you create or share highly complex spreadsheets and need advanced formatting and high reliability, Boot Camp is your best option. It allows Excel to run in its native Windows environment, so no conversions are necessary. If you just use Excel for light bookkeeping, personal budgets, grade books and other documents that don't require more than basic calculations, Office for Mac will take up less of your hard drive space than Boot Camp and offers a quick, seamless way to work with Excel and then return to your other Mac programs.
Anne Hirsh has been writing and editing for over 10 years. She has hands-on experience in cooking, visual arts and theater as well as writing experience covering wellness and animal-related topics. She also has extensive research experience in marketing, small business, Web development and SEO. Hirsh has a bachelor's degree in technical theater and English and post-baccalaureate training in writing and computer software.