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My Quixotic Pursuit of Excel for Android

Feb 18th 2015
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In a move that I can't imagine occurring during Steve Ballmer's reign, Microsoft has released Android versions of Microsoft Excel. I don't have an Android phone, or the inclination to procure one, but I did want to try out the tablet version. On the Apple platform the latest versions of Excel for iPhone and iPad are surprisingly usable. Comparatively, the early iterations of Excel for iPhone were laughably unusable, but the iPad version hit the ground strong. It was easy for me to install Excel on my Apple devices, but I almost gave up trying to get access to Excel for Android.

The first challenge with the Android platform is numerous flavors. I use the term "flavors" because Google names each version after some sort of sweet treat. The treats are named in alphabetical order, and so the very latest version of Android is Lollipop, while the previous version is KitKat (yes, after the candy bar). I make a distinction about these flavors because unlike Excel for iPad/iPhone, you can't run Excel for Android on just any tablet. I can't speak to Android phones, but here's what I do know about Android tablets. Your Android tablet must conform to all four of these specs:

  • 1 GB of RAM (many Android tablets have only 512 MB of RAM).
  • ARM processor (many Android tablets use Intel's Atom processor instead).
  • The KitKat version of Android (that means if you have the Jellybean or Lollipop versions, you can't run Excel).
  • Screen size between 7 and 10 inches (some Android tablets have 10.1” screens or larger. Yes, that extra tenth of an inch means you can't use Excel on a tablet of that size).

I was blithely unware of these requirements, and when I first heard that Excel for Android had been released, I ordered an inexpensive 7” tablet that met three of the four requirements. I truly felt like the proverbial monkey who reaches in to a jar to get a banana, but can't get his hand and the banana out at the same time. I could see Excel in the Google Play store, but I couldn't install it in my tablet.

I then thought I could do an end-run around the problem and use an Android Emulator on my Windows computer. My first choice was BlueStacks, which allows anyone to run Android apps on a PC. Unfortunately I couldn't get Excel to work in that environment, so I then tried Andyroid. I'm not sophisticated enough to understand how to launch any apps on that platform, so I capitulated and purchased a second Android tablet that met all four specs. I was then easily able to download and install Excel for Android. But I then apparently made the rookie mistake of using the wrong micro-USB cable to charge said tablet, and it no longer functions.

I then tried one more time, with a third tablet and have succeeded in being able to run Excel for Android. I was surprised to find that I couldn't purchase a brand-name tablet, like a Samsung Galaxy Note, that met all four requirements. My first tablet that met three of the four criteria is made by Toshiba, and the other two are brands that were new to me.

As for Excel for Android itself, it's very similar to Excel for iPad/iPhone. Excel on a mobile device is a different experience from Excel on your desktop. You won't be doing heavy duty content creation due to a limited feature set, and typically small screen size. But as time goes by, I find more and more uses for Excel on my iPhone. Just last night I was able to quickly calculate what a car payment would be for someone considering a new car. Two of my previous articles will get you up to speed on Excel for mobile devices: I wrote about my first impressions and later gave an update on new features.

About the author:

David H. Ringstrom, CPA, heads up Accounting Advisors, Inc., an Atlanta-based software and database consulting firm providing training and consulting services nationwide. Contact David at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter. David speaks at conferences about Microsoft Excel, teaches webcasts for CPE Link, and writes freelance articles on Excel forAccountingWEB, Going Concern,


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