Export to Excel — business software’s most common feature?

Hjalmar Gislason
Apr 11, 2018 · 2 min read

In the analytics industry there is a standing joke that “Export to Excel” is the most used feature of any analytics software. From my own experiences I can confirm that there is some truth to that given users’ reaction when this feature is missing in critical spots!

But analytics software is far from alone. Almost all business software (and many personal software as well) has an “Export to Excel” feature — that is if they care enough about their users to make any data available to their users at all.

Export to Excel. It’s everywhere!

This will be true of your CRM system, your fitness application, your tax software, your survey solution, your address book and many other applications you use regularly.

As I wrote in my three part series on the nature and history of spreadsheets — “data” is nearly synonymous with spreadsheets. Turns out that it is so much so that a feature that would accurately be called “Download data” is typically labeled“Export to Excel”. Sometimes what’s behind the button/label is even a CSV file rather than a proper Excel file (XLS or XLSX). Such a file is obviously just as well suited for working with in any other software that can read CSV files, but saying “Download as CSV” would just confuse most users as they are going to use Excel to open the file anyways.

And what about Google Sheets users? I’m going to write more about the demographics and trends in usage of Google Sheets vs. Excel and Office 365 soon, but for now let’s say that if “Excel” is synonomous with “data”, it is even more so with “spreadsheet software”. So while “Google” may have become a verb to mean “search”, “Google Sheets” has hardly gained noun status :)

Users looking to retrieve their data for use in Google Sheets will still go looking for that “Export to Excel” button.

GRID — the new face of spreadsheets

Thoughts about the nature, ubiquity and importance of spreadsheets — and how to improve them.

Hjalmar Gislason

Written by

Adventures in data. Founder and CEO of GRID (@grid_hq). Proud data nerd. Curious about everything. Founder of 5 software companies.

GRID — the new face of spreadsheets

Thoughts about the nature, ubiquity and importance of spreadsheets — and how to improve them.

More From Medium

More on Spreadsheets from GRID — the new face of spreadsheets

More on Spreadsheets from GRID — the new face of spreadsheets

A Notebook for Excel (and Google Sheets)

More on Excel from GRID — the new face of spreadsheets

More on Excel from GRID — the new face of spreadsheets

Linguists are to text what _____ are to data?

More on Excel from GRID — the new face of spreadsheets

More on Excel from GRID — the new face of spreadsheets

Spreadsheets lack people skills

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade