How to use Excel files on Android

Use Excel on Android devices with these apps and solutions.

We’ve already covered how to use Excel on the iPad and with more and more tablets and phones (such as the Kindle Fire) making use of Android OS it seems sensible to cover the solutions for analysing spreadsheets in the Android environment.

Many of the apps below are similar to the solutions provided for the iPad and some solutions, such as VPN, require no apps at all.

The below screenshot shows a simple spreadsheet.  I’m keen to see how this renders in some of the solutions below.  As you can see, the spreadsheet is very simple. There is some formatted text, a comment, a function - rand(), a shape and a table with borders.  I saved this file as an xlsx.

I first start by downloading this file after uploading it to a Dropbox account.  The Dropbox app can then be used used to save it to your android’s SD card.

Excel file on Android phone

Excel file as seen on PC

Documents to go

This app comes in a free version if you want to try before you buy and is called Documents To Go 3.0 Main App. The image below shows how our sheet looks when we use Sheet To Go to open it.  Straight away there’s a warning message of “unsupported content”.  This is rather alarming given how simple how sheet was.  So how has it rendeerd?  Overall, ok.  The borders have gone however, and so has our comment.  Bizarrely the red tick in the corner leaves clues that a comment once existed.  Oh, and where’s our shape gone?!

The file warns that it’s read-only due to the following unsupported content: the random function formula in cell A5.

The Android phone I’m using lacks an easy way to take screenshots so forgive the amateur photography:

Excel file on Android

Excel file on Documents to Go

You may have also noticed the advert at the bottom, this is a free app after all though and is useful for viewing files.  It currently has a 4.2/5 rating on the android market place.

One of the nice features in this free app is the ability to view recently viewed files, saving time navigating to folders.  If there’s an Excel file you use often you can “star” it for constant access too.  In addition to Excel, you can open PowerPoint, PDF and Word documents too, as well as documents you have saved in Google Docs.  The paid for version supports 111 functions.


Now, back to our little spreadsheet.  If I open it with QuickOffice it actually renders closer to the original file as the borders remain and a vague outline of where the shape was exists.

Excel on Android

QuickOffice on Android opening an Excel file

QuickOffice however is not that easy to use.  The good thing is that it copies Excel, and so type =7*3 into a cell and hit return to get 21.  Some functions wor the same too, i.e. the rand() function produces random numbers between 0 and 1. A list of supported functions is available here.  If you try and write a vlookup though you’ll spot the problems immediately.  On my phone I have to navigate (3 button presses) to the second symbol page just to get the “=” symbol that starts a function.  When I enter “=vlookup” I’m not made aware what the arguments are nor can i select cells to enter as arguments by clicking, instead I have to type them in directly.  This is all rather time consuming.

Shead Sheet Lite

This is another app that comes in two editions, free and paid for.  This free app has only ten lines per worksheet which will be a big barrier for most, even though it’s free.  Upon installing you’ll get a brief statement from the creator listing all the hassle he’s getting from users on topics taht are already clearly explained so bear that in mind if you at first think a few features need explaining, they probably have been.  Whilst using it you’ll have helpful windows popping up every time you try and do something.  This is partly the problem with using spreadsheet apps on the android and smartphones, there is a lack of room and app creators feel obliged to hold our hands as we use apps to avoid getting impulsive 1 star ratings from people who can’t figure things out.

Importing tables (i.e. opening Excel files) is simple enough but xlsx files are not supported, meaning we can’t see how our little spreadsheet renders).  I saved it as an xls though and the below is what we have:  but still could not see how I import the “table”.

Google Docs

If you don’t mind your data being saved on the cloud then you can edit your numbers using Google Docs.  You can upload to Google Docs fro a phone by selecting “Docs” when you share a file from another Android app (so in Dropbox hold down on the xlsx file, click share, then choose share this file, then choose Docs).  You can choose to convert the file to a Google Doc or upload without conversion.  Despite beinga  small file it took some time to open in Google Docs after the initial upload.

Here’s how our file looks after being converted to a Google Doc:


Google Doc on Android

Google Doc on Android


It’s rendered nicely and whilst disappointing, I’m not surprised to see our shape and comment have disappeared.


ThinkFree Office Lite

First impressions of ThinkFree are good. Much like a lot of these spreadsheet apps, there are free versions and paid for versions. The menu and navigation presentation in ThinkFree is perfect. A menu screen helps explain how things work. My Docs allows you to open documents you have saved on your android device whilst Online allows you to edit documents you saved on Finally, Google, this allows you to access and edit Google Docs.

What’s most impressive with “My Docs” is the ease in which you can browse for your files. It basically opens up your SD card and displays it like Windows Explorer. I browse to my Dropbox folder and open our sample Excel file. As you can see below, the rendering is close to the original. We have lost our blue shape and comment however. ThinkOffice Lite allows you to view Excel documents.

ThinkFree Office Excel

ThinkFree on Android

There are two paid for Android apps available. ThinkFree Office Mobile is suitable for Smartphones and Tablets. In terms of features they are pretty similar but the way in which they are used are different, as each is optimised for a big or small screen. Whilst our shape didn’t render too well below, ThinkFree has an icon which allows you to insert a photo from your phone or tablet’s camera.

Switching between entering text, numbers or formulas into cells is made easy. What’s nice is that a menu of functions pops up when you are entering a formula.

1 comment to How to use Excel files on Android

  • It atacully doesn’t work on my phone because it’s broken.But I used to have wifi connection with it. You should check in winmo if your wifi is still working there (that’s the first problem I had when the motherboard started doing stupid things).

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