Difference Between Database and Spreadsheet

Database vs Spreadsheet

Database and Spreadsheet are two ways that could be used to manage, store, retrieve and manipulate data. A spreadsheet is an application that allows user to work on an electronic spreadsheet similar to an accounting worksheet, whereas, a database is intended for easily organizing, storing and retrieving large amounts of data. In other words, a database holds a bundle of organized data (typically in a digital form) for one or more users. Databases, often abbreviated DB, are classified according to their content, such as document-text, bibliographic and statistical.


A spreadsheet is computer software application that allows users to work on a GUI environment similar to an accounting worksheet. Spreadsheet applications display a 2-D grid (or matrix) of cells consisting of rows and columns simulating a paper worksheet. Each cell can be entered three types of content as text, numbers for formulas. Formula is a mechanism to calculate the value of a certain cell using the content of several other cells. Formula value (displayed on the cell) automatically updates itself each time any of the other cells (which are used to calculate the formula) is changed. This is one of the reasons why electronic spreadsheets are used for financial information, because the operator does not need to update all cells manually depending on a single change to the spreadsheet. Microsoft Excel, which is offered as a part of Microsoft Office suite is the most popular electronic spreadsheet application in the world. Some time back, Visical on Apple II computers and Lotus 1-2-3 had the largest market shares of spreadsheet applications.


A Database may contain different levels of abstraction in its architecture. Typically, the three levels: external, conceptual and internal make up the database architecture. External level defines how the users view the data. A single database can have multiple views. The internal level defines how the data is physically stored. The conceptual level is the communication medium between internal and external levels. It provides a unique view of the database regardless of how it is stored or viewed. There are several types of databases such as Analytical databases, Data warehouses and Distributed databases. Databases (more correctly, relational databases) are made up of tables and they contain rows and columns, much like spreadsheets in Excel. Each column corresponds to an attribute, while each row represents a single record. For example, in a database, which stores employee information of a company, the columns could contain employee name, employee Id and salary, while a single row represents a single employee. Most of the databases come with a Database Management system (DBMS) that makes it very easy to create /manage /organize data.

What is the difference between Database and Spreadsheet?

Although databases and spreadsheets are two ways of managing data, they have their advantages and disadvantages. When it comes to simple and easy to use interfaces for the novice users, spreadsheets are a better option than databases. When used as data storage, spreadsheets have serious drawbacks over databases. For example, it is very difficult to retrieve data from slightly advanced queries. Spreadsheets provide minimal data validation and do not offer data protection mechanisms to protect data from poorly trained users. Typically, databases offer better facilities for concurrency. Furthermore, relational databases are better at storing things at a single place and avoiding redundancy.