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If your company works with Google Sheets but external contacts use Microsoft Excel files, you’ll want a quick and easy way to convert Excel to Google Sheets so that you and your team can work on them. Fortunately, Google Sheets makes it very simple to upload Excel into Google Sheets.

Let’s imagine your client has sent you an Excel file to edit, but your team uses Google Sheets. You need to know how to convert the Excel files you receive in Google Sheets, edit them, then convert them back to Excel to return to the client.

In this article, you’ll learn how to convert Excel to Google Sheets, how to import Excel to Google Sheets, and how to convert the files back to Excel. You’ll also learn when to convert Excel to Google Sheets or vice versa based on the needs of your data, to avoid any unnecessary limitations when working.

Not quite what you’re looking for? See our other article on Transferring data from one Excel file to another automatically.

How to convert Excel files into Google Sheets?

You can convert any Excel file you receive to Google Sheets. The data in your Excel file will not change and you can continue to work on it in Google Sheets.

  1. 1. Open Google Drive and click +New > File Upload.
How to convert Excel files to Google Sheets Upload Excel to Google Sheets
  1. 2. Select the Excel file you wish to convert and click “Open”.
How to convert Excel files to Google Sheets How to open Excel in Google Drive
  1. 3. Click “Open with” and choose “Google Sheets” from the available options.
How to convert Excel to Google Sheets Open Excel as Google Sheet
  1. 4. To save, click “File” and “Save as Google Sheets” to save the converted file.
How to convert Excel to Google Sheets Save Excel as Google Sheets

You will now see the original Excel file and a replica in Google Sheets format. We suggest deleting the Excel file to avoid confusion, especially as multiple team members may be accessing the file. You can always convert the Google Sheets file back to Excel later if required (see below for instructions).

You can automate this process so that any future Office files are automatically converted to Google Sheets.

  1. 1. Open Google Drive and click “Settings”.
  2. 2. Switch “Convert uploaded files to Google docs editor format” to “On”.
How to convert Excel files to Google Sheets automate convert Excel Google Sheets

Please note that any Excel files uploaded before these changes to settings were implemented will need to be converted manually.

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How to upload Excel files to Google Sheets?

You can import your Excel files into Google Sheets so you can continue to work on the spreadsheet within Google Sheets.

To upload or import your data from an existing Excel file into a new or existing Google Sheets file, follow these steps:

  1. 1. Open the Google Sheets where you want to import your Excel file.
  2. 2. Click File >Import.
How to convert Excel files to Google Sheets Import Excel
  1. 3. Select the Excel file you want to import. You can select the Excel file from various destination folders, including from your Google Drive, and from your computer. In this example, let’s select the Excel file from my Google Drive. Click “Select”.
How to convert Excel files to Google Sheets Import Excel to Google Sheets
  1. 4. In the “Import Option” drop-down menu, you can select how to import your data from the following options:
  • “Create new spreadsheet”: Creates a new spreadsheet in another window.
  • “Insert new sheets”: Inserts a new tab with the Excel sheet.
  • “Replace spreadsheet”: Replaces the current tab with the Excel sheet.
How to convert Excel to Google Sheets Import Excel to Google Sheet options
  1. 5. Select the right option for you. Then, click “Import data”. In this example, I’ll choose the “Replace spreadsheet” option to replace my current Google Sheet tab with the Excel data.
How to convert Excel to Google Sheets Replace spreadsheet import Excel to Google Sheets

Please note that when you edit the new Google Sheets version you have created, the Excel file will remain unchanged.

How to edit Excel files in Google Sheets?

Whether you convert or import your Excel files (.xls) into Google Sheets, you should be able to edit the file with no issues. Please note that any changes you make will not be applied to the original Excel file. Instead, you can either share your Google Sheets file with the updated spreadsheet data, or you can convert your Google Sheet file back to an Excel file. Let’s take a look at how you can do this.

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How to convert Google Sheets back to an Excel file?

Converting your Google Sheets file back to Excel is very simple indeed:

  1. 1. Open your Google Sheets file. Click File > Download > Microsoft Excel (.xlsx).
How to convert Excel files to Google Sheets download Google Sheet as Excel
  1. 2. Open up the new Excel once downloaded.
How to convert Excel files to Google Sheets open new Excel file

As you can see in this example, I now have an Excel file with all of my edits. You can also choose to convert your Google Sheets file into other formats, including PDF, Web page and CSV.

Excel vs. Google Sheets - Conversion limitations

If your team uses both Microsoft Excel and Google docs interchangeably, here are some instances where you should select one rather than the other. Selecting the wrong option may lead to further limitations when handling your data. Here is a quick overview of when you should use each software based on your needs.

Convert Excel files to Google Sheets when:

  • It’s necessary to simultaneously edit or you want to collaborate on a sheet with your team.
  • The data set you are working with contains 10 million cells or fewer.

Convert Google Sheets to Excel files when:

  • The dataset is very large (e.g. in excess of 10 million cells).
  • You plan to use charts such as 3D pyramids, or other unusual data representation tools.
  • You plan to use the Hyperion add-on for Excel.

How to automate your FP&A on top of Google Sheets?

Layer is an add-on that equips finance teams with the tools to increase efficiency and data quality in their FP&A processes on top of Google Sheets. Share parts of your Google Sheets, monitor, review and approve changes, and sync data from different sources – all within seconds.

Using Layer, you can:

  • Share & Collaborate: Automate your data collection and validation through user controls.
  • Automate & Schedule: Schedule recurring data collection and distribution tasks.
  • Integrate & Sync: Connect to your tech stack and sync all your data in one place.
  • Visualize & Report: Generate and share reports with real-time data and actionable decisions.

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Conclusion

As you can see, switching between Google Sheets and Excel files is both easy and intuitive, as long as you ensure that once a file has been converted, editing doesn’t continue on the old version. In almost every circumstance, Excel and Google Sheets can be used interchangeably in your Google Drive, but always keep in mind their respective limitations. In most instances, it makes little difference whether you and your clients are using Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets workbooks, as both products will function equally well in Google Drive.

Interested in learning how to transfer data or convert other files? See our other article on transferring data from one Excel file to another automatically.

Hady ElHady
Hady is Content Lead at Layer.

Hady has a passion for tech, marketing, and spreadsheets. Besides his Computer Science degree, he has vast experience in developing, launching, and scaling content marketing processes at SaaS startups.

Originally published Feb 18 2022, Updated Sep 23 2022