Are There Any Limits To Excel?

Microsoft Excel has long since been a staple of operating a small business, with experience in Excel as a required quality many employers look for in potential staff. With over 30 years of development, the program has become a platform in which many businesses run their day to day operations, from cost analysis to company breakdowns, seemingly without limit. But what’s the most you can do in Excel?

Put simply, most users and companies will never be aware of the limits of Excel ; the limits are massive. Using Excel as a simple workbook means that a user can easily have over a million rows in a sheet, with a maximum number of sheets dependant on the computer, not the program. Most PCs of low to mid-range can handle up to 50 or 100 separate sheets before the program becomes unusable. And with over 16,000 columns per sheet, this adds up to over 900,000,000,000 separate useable cells. It’s easy to see why people never reach this limit.

Each cell can even have over 30,000 characters in it, meaning Excel can operate as a basic word processor with a limit of several thousand books per file. It comes with basic functionality that a word processor does, with colouring, fonts, titles and much more, which is why some businesses choose to use this as their only platform.

The only limits to Excel that a business may reach would be for complex dependencies and formulas, as each cell can (only) be referenced by 253 other cells. Anyone reaching this limit should seriously consider changing platforms, as Excel begins to fail at high limits like this. Origin is a fantastic processing alternative with much higher cell reference limits, but on the flip side, it is not as easy to use as the industry standard.

It’s often neglected that Excel has functionality which is not simply raw data collection and graphing. Much like many popular platforms, it can be easily repurposed to accomplish many tasks. From live data analysis through moving graphs, to creating full blown PC games within Excel itself, the limits are almost impossible to reach.

Because of the nature of Excel with fast response times and colourful graphing, full blown games can be made and run solely in the program. 5 years ago, somebody remade The Legend of Zelda in Excel, which is a true port over to any computer which can run Excel (i.e. most). This level of dedication is not a common thing, but easily serves to show the limitless potential of Excel as a working platform for development. Of course, simpler games have been made, such as tic-tac-toe and minesweeper, and this only further shows that Excel is an adaptive program.

One important note is that Excel can easily be used for programming in general, as it includes a basic scripting service known as VBA. This is ideal for businesses which share a document between multiple users, as commands can be set up on close or with a hotkey. One working document we have here includes a command to sign and date after each use on a separate sheet, in order to keep track of who has edited what on the doc. Excel is versatile, and is easy to use to boot.

One known fault with Excel is also the reason you back your files up; at large sizes, files in transport can become corrupted. This is a common problem with most large files, but as Excel is mostly used for record keeping, this can become an issue. The flip side of this is that Excel comes with built in error recovery, and if that doesn’t work, then opening the file as a CSV in Excel can minimize any damage caused to the file by having it in real-text format.