Microsoft Excel Online introduction

The online version of Excel is similar to the Windows version of the application. It can perform many of the same formulas and functions. Users can choose from many of the same charts, and they also can insert other objects, such as Pivot Table.

Mac users, Linux users, those with Chromebooks, as well as Windows users all have the ability to use Excel. It can be used through just about any Web browser on just about any operating system. Users need either a free Microsoft Office account or a 365 one.

Excel, like the other Microsoft online applications, has two ways to access features and settings in a spreadsheet.

  • Ribbons
  • Context menus

Through these, users can make changes to their spreadsheets or open dialogs and panels with settings for the spreadsheets. The two interfaces are covered below.


There are nine ribbons that are present, regardless of the object that is selected. Others only appear when a corresponding object is selected. For example when a shape is selected, a Shape ribbon appears to the right of the Help ribbon.


Clicking this item launches a File side panel with seven tabs. Users can print, download spreadsheets in other formats, create new documents, open recent documents, and share the document with others. There are a few other functions that could be performed.

The panel is like the backstage view of the Windows version of Excel. It is also has many of the same items that are in the File panel of the other online applications.


The Home ribbon is a collection of icons and settings that are used by most spreadsheet users. These include settings for fonts, number formats, aligning and wrapping cells, and styling cells. Most of the settings and controls that people use are in this ribbon.


Through the Insert ribbon, users can put images, charts, shapes, pivot tables, and other objects into spreadsheets.


This ribbon contains several drawing tools. It also has a drawing tool, but it is missing the ink to math and ink to shape items that are in Excel for Windows.


The Formulas ribbon has Calculate Workbook and the Calculate Options drop-down menu. This is a small sample of what is in the same ribbon in the Windows version. These options are in the last section of that ribbon, Calculation.


This ribbon has items for grouping and ungrouping cells, sorting cells, and it has the geography and stocks data types that are in the Excel version.


Review contains a spell check, a link to view a dialog with workbook statistics, and several settings for comments.


This menu gives a user different ways of seeing data. A user can freeze rows and columns, launch a duplicate of the document in a new browser window, and create temporary views of a spreadsheet, where a user can sort and filter data but others sharing the document can’t see the sorting and filtering. It also allows the user to see and hide headings and gridlines.


Help has links to contact support, access to help articles, and links to new features in Excel Online.

Object-based ribbons

  • Shape
  • Chart
  • Table Design
  • PivotTable

Context menus

The vertical and horizontal menus for cells has some items that cannot be found in the ribbons, such as the Grow font and Shrink font items in the horizontal menu.

Context menus appear when the user right clicks a cell or an object, like an image, in a spreadsheet. Unlike Word Online, context menus don’t automatically appear when text is selected. They only appear with a right click.

The two types of menus are vertical and horizontal. Most items in both can be found in the ribbons. However, the context menus have unique items.

The horizontal menus contain icons for different tasks that can be performed, such as making cell content bold or changing the font color. Only cells have a the horizontal menu.

Vertical menus are lists of settings, such as the fill color for a shape. Cut, copy, and paste are common to the vertical context menus for cells, shapes, and images. Most other items, however, are unique. Images and shapes have an Alt Text in their vertical menus. The cell vertical menus have many more items in the vertical menu.