Microsoft Excel is a very popular piece of spreadsheet software. Many businesses and schools have adopted it because of its good reputation and useful features, such as time-saving formulas and the ability to output professional charts and graphs. While Excel offers many advantages to the consumer, it has a number of disadvantages you should be aware of.
Steep Learning Curve
Many books have been written on how to use Microsoft Excel because it contains a large number of features that are not intuitive for beginners. The software contains hundreds of formulas and allows the user to create dozens of charts, graphs and other figures. Advanced features like error checking, cell formatting, macros and workbook sharing take time to master.
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The latest version of Microsoft Excel costs around $109 or $229 from Microsoft, depending on whether you buy an upgrade for a previous version, which is the cheaper option, or the full latest version. You can also buy Excel as part of Microsoft Office, which can save money especially if you use the other programs in Office, such as Word, PowerPoint or Outlook. Some people consider Excel very expensive compared to free alternatives. Businesses generally do not mind paying Excel's retail price, but many consumers cannot afford the software.
Excel is only available on Windows and Mac OS X, which poses a problem for users of Linux and other operating systems. Both Microsoft Excel 2007 and 2010 require 256 MB of RAM and a 500 MHz CPU, which means that owners of old computers are stuck using outdated versions of the software.
Problems with Statistical Analysis
Users who need to perform complex scientific calculations or statistical analysis should avoid Excel at all costs. A report published by Eva Goldwater at the University of Massachusetts entitled, "Using Excel for Statistical Data Analysis - Caveats" concludes that Excel is not a good program for analyzing data. It cites multiple usability issues with the software, including problems with its internal formulas.
"On the Accuracy of Statistical Procedures in Microsoft Excel 2003," a 2004 paper written by B.D. McCulloughan and Berry Wilson, describes multiple bugs in all versions of Excel that cause its functions and formulas to output erroneous data.