What do YOU think Excel is for?

Continuing the discussion from Things you've been surprised you've had to explain at work:

Inspired by another thread:
What do you think Excel is actually for?
What else do you use it for?
What are the weirdest things you have seen other people use Excel for?

So Excel started as an accounting tool. I started with a very early floppy disk version of Lotus 123 myself.

But thanks to both spreadsheets robust macros and toolsets Excel has become useful for so much more.

  • I know accountants that also did their word processing in Excel or Lotus. It took much to ween them over to Word.

  • I and many others use Excel as a very basic database tool.

  • I use it for Financial Planning and monitoring

  • I’ve used it for building fairly powerful game tools for D&D, Traveler and Battle-Tech.

  • I’ve used it as a data bridge for bring stuff between an AS400 and Microsoft Sequel server and vice-versa doing some data fixing via macro in Excel.

  • I have of course use it for Report automation and distribution with other tools.

Single table where each row is a different record and each column is a different kind of info pertinent to each row

Summary fields (averages and sums and other aggregate values at far right (summarizing the row) or bottom (summarizing the column); calculation cells anywhere (valued derived from other cells)

Quick 'n dirty flat (single-table) database

Data for making a chart (pie chart, area chart, line chart, etc)

Sortable data based on one or more columns

As I mentioned in the other thread, I’ve seen games in Excel. Well, second hand “seen”. Wasn’t there an Easter Egg game maybe in Lotus?

Then again, I have a maze creation program for AutoCAD in LISP. There may have been an AutoCAD Asteroids too.

A fairly early version of Excel has a small flight sim. (I checked, Office 97 version)

I use it for numbers.
For data, I use Access. Excel just can’t keep up (nor is it designed to).
Word is for writing.

I’ve seen a person use it as a word processor for financial information. i.e. all of the financial information was stored in cells as text along with other text. They then had to use a desk top calculator to add up the numbers that they had aligned in a column using spaces, for a total at the bottom.

Tracking inventory.

I sometimes use spreadsheets to hold financial info, but the trick is to keep the numbers in Column A and the text description/note in column B.

I use a spreadsheet as a password manager - important ones I memorize (banks, EHR, email, and ofc SDMB), but other things go in an encrypted spreadsheet on my personal flashdrive. I wonder if anyone else does that, or is it just me?


It’s for costing you a whole lot more money than Open Office’s Calc.

But, as far as spreadsheets, I use them all the time. They track labor, inventory, I do productivity and cost breakdowns.

I often make up a new spreadsheet to take care of calculations that otherwise would require to tallying up things on a calculator or something. if I’m going to have to type it into a calculator once, I may as well type it into a spreadsheet, that way I can tell if and where i’ve made any errors, and use that data in other ways if I want to.

I’ve used it mostly for tracking objects that have multiple types of information. I know Excel is used a lot in engineering calculations.

Strangest thing I used Excel for was a project that let you encrypt messages before sending them off. If your recipient had the same Excel document, they could decrypt the message.

I think that what was being said was that both the numbers and the text were in the same cell.

Didn’t @BeepKillBeep use spreadsheets to model brainstates, as mentioned in a recent debate about free will?


Yeah, if you have to use a desk calculator to sum numbers in Excel you are probably doing it wrong.

But on the other hand some CPAs appear much faster running numbers through a desk calculator than entering into Excel. It makes sense if you’re doing something simple and the numbers aren’t in Excel yet.


I nearly forgot. That early use of Lotus was in the Navy and I computerized the Preventive Maintenance System for Safety Shop using Lotus. Once completed a few macros let us print off the Safety Checks for the week, the month or the Annuals. All done on Zenith Computers.

I used Lotus for quite a few other things for E-Div, but that was the one that really impressed the Chiefs and our LTJG.

Excel isn’t terribly expensive these days. Office 365 Personal is $70/yr and that includes Word, Excel, Access, One Note, Power Point, a Premium Outlook.com subscription, and 1TB of OneDrive storage.

OpenOffice on the other hand was sunset in 2011 and is a no longer maintained product.

The project is still active under forks named Apache OpenOffice and LibreOffice.


Oh yeah, I also use it when I want things formatted in specific ways, it’s good for that.

So employee schedules, my application for employment, my client questionnaire and disclaimer form, stuff like that, even though it will never see any calculations, I still find it to be easier to use a spreadsheet than to try to line things up the way I want them on a word processor.

Well the original project was shut down, those are forks. And I know a lot of people who use LibreOffice and none of them still refer to it by its old OpenOffice moniker.

Calc is also significantly less feature rich than Microsoft Excel in any number of ways, and less performant.

I’m using Excel 2010 which still works fine. I got it for free from a prior job.

Support for Excel 2010 ended on October 13, 2020

I don’t expect to upgrade for years yet.