Yes, People Still Want to Learn Excel

A question I get all the time: “Why do you blog about Excel? R/Python/name-your-program is better.”

There’s no doubt that Microsoft is facing increased competition in the business analytics market.

Microsoft’s problem, though, is not in the technology but the marketing. Excel can do amazing things. Too few people know about them. 

In part it’s up to Excel’s user base to demonstrate the program’s capabilities. This was a topic of great discussion between me, Alex Powers, and Oz du Soleil. Check out our conversation here.

Regardless, as a blogger with a focus on Excel, I like to keep up on trends in software training. I like to check out Google Trends to track search interest in various topics. 

My first query compared training for Excel, Python, and R. 


Looks just about what I would expect: more search for Excel than for R and Python combined. It was surprising not to see an increased search interest in any term. 

I changed my search criteria a bit in the second query and the story changed radically: 


Wow. Looks like many more people want to learn Python. And a few more want R.

But guess what? While interest in Python and R has increased, interest in Excel has not decreased (for now). 

One more.

R and Python are free programs popular for data analysis. Let’s compare search interest for them versus SPSS and SAS, traditional proprietary packages: 


There is a pattern. Free programs are gaining on paid programs. 

Is it fair to extend this pattern to Excel? The search trends appear not to indicate that. 

One thing Excel does have that SAS and SPSS do not are huge user groups (nearly every workstation on the planet is running Office). Network effects loom large. This is why I call Excel the “Facebook of the office.”

Microsoft would have to become MySpace for a Facebook to take over. And I do not foresee that, because it has been cognizant in offering highly valuable proprietary software while being open to partnership with open-source programs. 

Here’s the thrust:

The adoption of Python and R will NOT cannabilize the use of Excel.

They each have strengths. In fact, there is synergy (ugh, I used the S word.). Microsoft is doing a great job of integrating the power of other programs, some open-source, while maintaining its network-effect advantage. 

The question of “Why learn/teach Excel? Why not Python/R?” Is a false dichotomy. People keep learning Excel, so I will keep teaching it (and learning R myself). 

Yes, people are still learning Excel. How about becoming one of them? Subscribe to my newsletter and get started.


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  1. A while ago I heard that the most used features of other big analysis packages is Export to Excel. People go to these packages for some of the work, then incorporate this into their Excel workbooks, and Word reports, and PowerPoint decks.

  2. Agreed with Jon Peltier,

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