Excel vs Tableau – A Comprehensive Comparison 

Excel vs Tableau

We live in a world ruled by data, particularly big data. All industries and organizations not only endure but also thrive based on their ability to harness the power of data. Microsoft Excel and Tableau are two of the leading data analysis tools in today’s age.   

Although there are differences between the two, there are many similarities as well. Excel has been around for a longer period of time compared to Tableau. But Tableau has undoubtedly made a profound impact in the data analysis tools industry. It is one of the most powerful business intelligence tools available today. 

Data scientists, analysts, and entrepreneurs love Tableau for its interactive and intuitive data visualization. It enables businesses to access actionable business insights. Although Excel is not known for its data visualization capabilities like SSIS flat file, it is an excellent tool for multi-layered calculations, data creation, and multiple other data operations.  

Thus, the debate between Excel vs Tableau is hot among data scientists. Which one best suits your needs and why?   

This article briefly explains and draws a comparison between Excel and Tableau.   

What is Excel?  

Excel is a spreadsheet software application created by Microsoft. It comes under the Microsoft Office software suite and can run on Windows, iOS, and Android devices. Large and small-sized companies use it for calculations, data creation and organization, budgeting, financial analysis, and formulas.   

Using Excel, your team can calculate the revenue earned, payroll expense, tax dues, and time-based reports. But even as a spreadsheet, Excel is a handy tool for individuals and organizations alike. That is evidenced by the fact that it has existed for over three decades and continues to have a strong presence.  

Leading companies like Total, Samsung, Carrefour S.A, etc., use Excel at the organizational level. Here are some of its prominent features: 

  • Data filtering, sorting, and classification with the feature to carry out advanced filtering. 
  • Pivot tables. 
  • Charts and graphs. 
  • Conditional formatting. 
  • Built-in formulas and formula auditing. 
  • Automatic editing of results. 
  • Password protection. 
  • Absolute references. 

What is Tableau? 

Tableau gets its popularity for rendering intuitive data visualizations that represent data to enable users to make the right business decisions. Your data scientists can use Tableau to plot graphs and create charts that help the decision-making process.  

Tableau has been around since 2003, but it was acquired by the leading American software company Salesforce in 2019. Leading companies like Nike, Skype, Citigroup, Coca-Cola, The New York Times, etc., use Tableau for data analysis and visualization.  

Tableau Server, Tableau Desktop, Tableau Reader, Tableau Online, and Tableau CRM are some of its leading products. Here is a list of prominent Tableau features:  

  • Advanced data visualization. 
  • Team collaboration. 
  • Data connectors. 
  • External service integration. 
  • Mobile view. 
  • Robust data security. 
  • Predictive analytics. 
  • Drag and drop functionality. 
  • Maps. 
  • Interactive dashboard. 

Excel vs Tableau – Key Differences 

Here’s a table that encapsulates the key differences between Excel and Tableau. 

Criteria Excel Tableau 
 Purpose Data calculations, organization, and formatting Data visualization and insights representation 
Type of Tool Data visualization  Spreadsheet 
Data Size Best for vast volumes of data Optimal for small and medium-sized datasets 
Performance  Works fast with large datasets Performance reduces with large datasets 
Data sources Easily connects with different sources in real-time Requires plug-ins for non-excel data sources 
Users Data scientists and analysts Developers, data analysts, Database administrators 
Data exploration Uses interactive dashboards for data exploration Relatively limited data exploration capabilities via spreadsheets 
Data display Graphical and pictorial representation through interactive dashboards Tabular view with cells and graphs and charts for insights 
Ease of use Data analysis skills required Users need to know customized functions 
Data ingestion Live connection with data sources Requires time to obtain data from other sources 
Data visualization Wide range of in-built custom charts Simple Excels charts 
Security Offers many data security controls  Relatively fewer data security controls 
Integration Integrable with over 250 applications Integrable with over 60 applications 
Data blending Convenient due to easy data importation from sources Requires formulas before computing 
Calculations and Formulas Very easy to make powerful customized formulas Requires macros creation and elementary programming skills 


Let’s discuss which tool would suit your needs best.  

Both Excel vs Tableau are excellent data analysis and for enterprise data integration. But your decision to choose either of them should be based on your organizational needs and requirements.   

Excel will serve your organizational needs adequately if yours is a small or medium-sized enterprise. Many businesses use the Microsoft Office suite – thus, Excel would be an excellent choice for your team. However, if your company regularly deals with vast amounts of data, Tableau would be a better option. Moreover, you can easily continue using both tools and integrate Tableau with Excel to extract data from the latter.   

In the end, the decision rests with you!   


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