Excel Web App Home > Excel Web App > Reference
Office.com

Differences between using a workbook in the browser and in Excel

If you’re using SharePoint Server 2013 or Office Web Apps (on premises), Excel Services and Excel Web App enable you to use a workbook in a browser window. If you’re using SharePoint Online (in the cloud), Office Online provides similar capabilities.

When you are viewing a workbook in a browser window, can typically use certain features, such as the ability to print and interact with items, similar to how you would use those features in Excel. However, there are some differences between using a workbook in a browser window and in Excel.

 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.

In this article


Workbook file formats that are supported in a browser window

Workbooks in any of the following file formats can be viewed in a browser window:

  • Excel workbook (.xlsx)
  • 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.
  • Excel 97- Excel 2003 Workbook (.xls) or Excel 97- Excel 2003 Template (.xlt)
    If a workbook is in .xls or .xlt format, you can typically view but not edit a workbook in a browser window. When the file is edited, it is saved in .xlsx or .xltx format.

Workbooks in other formats, such as .csv format, are generally not supported for viewing in a browser window.

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

Top of Page Top of Page

Workbook features that are supported for viewing in a browser window

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

This feature Works like this in a browser window
Calculations Calculations 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.
Cells Cells, 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 reports

In general, charts, tables, PivotChart reports, and PivotTable reports are displayed in a browser window similar to how they are displayed in Excel. Exceptions include

  • Charts that are part of a group of charts
  • Charts that rely on external references
  • Charts that use certain kinds of data sources that are not supported for workbooks viewed in a browser window

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 to Excel Web App.

Data connections Depending 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.
Dates Dates are displayed in a browser window similar to how they are displayed in Excel.
External references The 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 report In 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 controls

Filters 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 to Excel Web App.

Formatting Cell and cell-range formatting and number formats display in a browser window similar to how they are displayed in Excel.
Functions Most Excel functions work in a browser window as they do in Excel. Exceptions are listed in the Workbook functions section of this article.
Line borders Most, 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 items

Named 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 to Excel Web App.

Sparklines Sparklines display in a browser window similar to how they are displayed in Excel.
Tables Excel tables, including data, column headers, and total rows are displayed in a browser window similar to how they are displayed in Excel.

Top of Page Top of Page

Workbook 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.

This feature Works like this in a browser window
Controls Controls, such as ActiveX controls and form toolbar controls, prevent a workbook from being viewed in a browser window.
Data connections Depending 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 validation Workbooks that use data validation can be edited in a browser window, but data validation cannot be set up in the browser.
Digital signatures Workbooks that use visible or invisible digital signatures cannot be viewed in a browser window.
Fonts Fonts 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.
Functions Some 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 languages Workbooks 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.
Save When you or other people edit a workbook in a browser window, changes are saved automatically.
Security and privacy

Workbooks 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 Online (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.

Shapes Workbooks that contain shapes cannot be edited in a browser window.
Undo and Redo When 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 protection

Workbooks 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.

To remove protection, open the workbook in the Excel.

XML XML maps, XML embedded smart tags, and XML expansion packs prevent a workbook from being viewed in a browser window.

Workbook functions in Excel and in a browser window

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 function Works like this in Excel Works like this in a browser window
CHAR Returns 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.
HYPERLINK Returns an active link that you can click and follow Depending 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.
INFO Returns the path of the current directory or folder on the computer. Returns a #VALUE! error.
NOW Returns the date and time on your computer Returns the date and time on the server
RAND, RANDBETWEEN Returns a random number each time it is used Returns 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.
TODAY Returns the date on your computer Returns the date on the server

Top of Page Top of Page

About Excel Online, 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 Online (part of Office Online), 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:

Top of Page Top of Page