I am not a fan of Excel.

My main reason for that is, that it does things without telling me. Anyone who ever tried to import an English formatted table into a German speaking program knows what I mean – it drops “leading” zeros (as in 0.2), because in Germany we use commas instead (0,2). Excel unapologetically changes the 0.2 into a 2 without telling me and at the same time OVERWRITES the document. I hate you Excel, I really do, because if the document contains a few thousand entries and not all of them start with a zero, chances are that you don’t notice. I don’t really need to explain the implications, do I? And yes. It happened to me. And yes, for ages I did not know what was happening to my data… and yes, I cursed not just quietly after finding out…

Also, if I tell Excel to save something to *.csv (comma-separated-values, a very simple text-based table data format, which usually every program can read), it doesn’t do it correctly (forgets to put text-entries with commas in quotation marks), which can lead to horrible complications.

Also, the graphics created by Excel are ugly.

Also, there is actually a scientific article on how statistical procedures in Excel are not accurate ().


But what to use instead? I cannot expect everyone to invest the time and effort needed to learn the statistical programming language R, which I prefer, just to draw a little pie chart (google “don’t use pie charts” before doing it!).

I tell people to install LibreOffice and to use their table calculation program “Calc”. It looks in essence a bit like an old Excel, but

  • It is free
  • It does not do things without telling me (it simply asks me, seriously Excel, that’s not too much to ask, is it?!)
  • It imports and exports csv perfectly and readily, offering different separators and all that
  • It creates much nicer graphics, that are – I think – more easily adapted
  • I don’t think I’ve heard anyone complain about its statistical calculations
  • I like it. And I’m not the only one.

So, if you don’t need to do a complicated statistical analysis, you don’t need complicated statistical software, of course. A spreadsheet-program might be what you need, absolutely.

Just don’t use Excel.




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About the author

My name is Sophie, I am a prehistoric archaeologist and currently research assistant at the Department for Archaeoinformatics of the Archaeological Institute at the Univerisity of Cologne, Germany. I teach statistics for archaeologists and work on new methods in settlement archaeology (GIS, geostatistics and stuff).

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