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Differences between using a workbook in the browser and in Excel

Excel for the web SharePoint Online Excel 2010 SharePoint Server 2013 Enterprise SharePoint Server 2010More…Less

Using Excel for the web

in a web browser looks a lot like the Excel desktop app. However, there are some differences to be aware of. For example, not all file formats are supported, and some features may work differently than the desktop app. This article explains these differences.

Note: If you are using Excel Web App or Excel Services in SharePoint Server 2010, see this version of Differences between using a workbook in the browser and in Excel.

File formats that are supported in Excel for the web

  • Excel workbook files (.xlsx)
  • Excel 97-2003 workbook files (.xls).
    Note: When you open this file format, Excel for the web will convert it to a newer .xlsx file. You can always download the original by going to File > Info > Previous versions.
  • Excel binary workbook file (.xlsb)
  • OpenDocument Spreadsheet file (.ods)
  • Excel macro-enabled workbook (.xlsm)
    A workbook in this format can be opened but macros do not run in a browser window.

Workbooks in other formats, such as .csv format, are generally not supported in Excel for the web.

For more information about Excel file formats, see Save a workbook in another file format.

Note: There are limits to the size of files you can view in SharePoint Online and the Power BI service. Read more about file size limits for workbooks in SharePoint Online.

Features that are supported for viewing in Excel for the web

When you view or print a workbook in a browser window, some features might work differently, as summarized in the following table.

This featureWorks like this in a browser window
CalculationsCalculations and calculation settings, including automatic, manual, and iterative calculation settings for ranges or worksheets work in a browser window similar to how they do in Excel.
CellsCells, including cell values, merged cells, and cell content overview, are displayed in a browser window similar to how they are displayed in Excel.
Charts and tables, including PivotChart reports and PivotTable reportsIn general, charts, tables, PivotChart reports, and PivotTable reports are displayed in a browser window similar to how they are displayed in Excel. Exceptions includeCharts that are part of a group of chartsCharts that rely on external referencesCharts that use certain kinds of data sources that are not supported for workbooks viewed in a browser windowIf you are using Excel Services or Excel Web App on premises (not in the cloud), the ability to display certain content in a browser window depends on whether Excel Services or Excel Web App is used to display a workbook. For more information, see Comparing Excel Services in SharePoint to Excel Web App.
Data connectionsDepending on how your environment is configured, some kinds of data connections are supported for workbooks displayed in a browser window, which enables you to refresh data. For more information, see Refreshing data in a workbook in a browser window.
DatesDates are displayed in a browser window similar to how they are displayed in Excel.
External referencesThe last known value for an external reference is displayed in a browser window. External references must be updated using Excel.
Fields list for a PivotChart report or a PivotTable reportIn general, the Fields List for a PivotChart report or a PivotTable report works in a browser window similar to how it works in Excel. This means that people can use the Fields List to explore information and change the data that is displayed in a PivotChart report or PivotTable report.
Filters, slicers, and timeline controlsFilters and slicers generally work in a browser window similar to how they work in Excel. In general, timeline controls work in a browser window similar to how they work in Excel.If you are using Excel Services or Excel Web App on premises (not in the cloud), the ability to display certain content in a browser window depends on whether Excel Services or Excel Web App is used to display a workbook. For more information, see Comparing Excel Services in SharePoint toExcel Web App.
FormattingCell and cell-range formatting and number formats display in a browser window similar to how they are displayed in Excel.
FunctionsMost Excel functions work in a browser window as they do in Excel. Exceptions are listed in the Workbook functions section of this article.
Line bordersMost, but not all, line borders are displayed in a browser window as they are displayed in Excel. Line colors, continuous- and double-line styles, solid and dashed lines, and lines using thin, medium, and thick line weights are supported.
Named itemsNamed items, such as ranges, tables, charts, PivotChart reports, PivotTable reports, slicers, and timeline controls are generally displayed in a browser window similar to how they are displayed in Excel.If you are using Excel Services or Excel Web App on premises (not in the cloud), the ability to display certain content in a browser window depends on whether Excel Services or Excel Web App is used to display a workbook. For more information, see Comparing Excel Services in SharePoint toExcel Web App.
SparklinesSparklines display in a browser window similar to how they are displayed in Excel.
TablesExcel tables, including data, column headers, and total rows are displayed in a browser window similar to how they are displayed in Excel.

Features that can differ between the browser and the desktop

Some features work differently in a browser window than they do in Excel. In addition, some workbook features can prevent a workbook from being viewed in a browser window.

Tip: If you cannot view a workbook in a browser window because it contains unsupported features, try opening the workbook in Excel on the desktop.

This featureWorks like this in a browser window
ControlsControls, such as ActiveX controls and form toolbar controls, prevent a workbook from being viewed in a browser window.
Data connectionsDepending on how your environment is configured, some kinds of data connections can prevent a workbook from being displayed in a browser window. For more information, see Refreshing data in a workbook in a browser window.
Data validationWorkbooks that use data validation can be edited in a browser window, but data validation cannot be set up in the browser.
Digital signaturesWorkbooks that use visible or invisible digital signatures cannot be viewed in a browser window.
FontsFonts are usually displayed using the same style and size in a browser as they are displayed in Excel. If a workbook uses a specific font that is not available on your device, then another font might be substituted when a workbook is displayed in a browser window.
FunctionsSome kinds of functions can behave differently in a browser window than they do in Excel. For more information, see the Functions section later in this article.
Legacy macro languagesWorkbooks that contain legacy macro features, such as Microsoft Excel 4.0 Macro Functions and Microsoft 5.0 dialog sheets cannot be displayed in a browser window.
SaveWhen you or other people edit a workbook in a browser window, changes are saved automatically.
Security and privacyWorkbooks that have Information Rights Management (IRM) settings applied at the workbook level cannot be viewed in a browser window.If your organization is using Excel Web App (on premises) or Excel for the web (in the cloud) to display workbooks, then workbooks that are saved in IRM-protected document libraries are supported and can be displayed in a browser window.Workbooks that are sent as IRM-protected attachments in Outlook Web App are also supported and can be displayed in a browser window.However, if your organization is using Excel Services in SharePoint Server (on premises) to display workbooks, workbooks in IRM-protected libraries are not supported, and must be opened in Excel.IRM cannot be applied in the browser.
Undo and RedoWhen a workbook is edited by more than one person at a time, the Undo and Redo commands are not available in a browser window as soon as another user makes a change.
Worksheet protection or workbook protectionWorkbooks that are protected (encrypted with password protection) cannot be viewed in a browser window.Protected worksheets (not entire workbooks) can be viewed in a browser window in Excel for the web.In an on-premises environment where you’re using Excel Services or Excel Web App, protected worksheets cannot be viewed in a browser window.To remove protection, open the workbook in the Excel on the desktop.
XMLXML maps, XML embedded smart tags, and XML expansion packs prevent a workbook from being viewed in a browser window.

Functions in Excel and in Excel for the web

Some workbook functions behave differently in a browser window than they do in Excel. The following table summarizes how some functions work in Excel and in a workbook viewed in a browser window.

This functionWorks like this in ExcelWorks like this in Excel for the web
CHARReturns a character specified by a number. For non-printing characters, returns a block character.Returns a character specified by a number. For non-printing characters, returns blank values.
HYPERLINKReturns an active link that you can click and followDepending on the Workbook Interactivity and Workbook Navigation settings that are specified for a workbook, the HYPERLINK function can return an active link or an inactive link text string.
INFOReturns the path of the current directory or folder on the computer.Returns a #VALUE! error.
NOWReturns the date and time on your computerReturns the date and time on the server
RAND, RANDBETWEENReturns a random number each time it is usedReturns a random number each time it is used
RTD (real-time data)Returns real-time data from a program that supports COM automation.If values that have been returned by an RTD function are stored in a workbook, those values are displayed. If no values are stored in the workbook, a #N/A error is returned.
TODAYReturns the date on your computerReturns the date on the server

About Excel for the web, Excel Web App (on premises) and Excel Services (on premises)

Different applications can be used to display a workbook in a browser window. Depending on how your environment is configured, you could be using Excel for the web (part of Office for the web), Excel Web App (part of Office Web Apps on premises), or Excel Services in SharePoint Server (on premises) to view a workbook in a browser window.

An IT administrator makes this decision, and it can affect which capabilities are supported when viewing a workbook in a browser window. For more information, see the following resources:

This information was compiled using information courtesy of © Microsoft 2020. All rights reserved.

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