Excel or Coda? Which is better?

Hi newcomers,

Welcome to Coda, I hope that you will also come to find Coda an extremely useful tool.

I don’t think that Excel or Coda are inherently “better”, they are good at different tasks. But there many things, including financial things, that you are doing in Excel, but which should be done in Coda.

In the beginning one of the most difficult thing for me was to get rid of the Excel patterns in my brain, and replace them with Coda patterns.

The doc below shows a random group of topics that are typically done in Excel, but can be done in Coda in more structured and secure ways.

Rambling Pete


I love the title. Enlightened people know that it cannot (nor should it) be answered without additional context. But the question itself is to be admired because we know many people who are just now becoming aware of Coda are asking this all the time.

Unfortunately, it is human nature to frame new concepts in the bounds of known (and deeply proven) concepts. Your comment crashes that party with provocative intent.

Reversing Polarity

Sometimes you have to forget what you know and try to re-imagine what you are doing. This is the deep takeaway from this post and I think it’s worthy of a deeper idictment:

There are things you are probably doing in Excel which should never have been done in the first place.

I see it often - Excel is the hammer and everything is a nail. Using Excel as the means to every end is far worse than using Coda for every imaginable purpose. Don’t read too much into my comment - I’m not suggesting Coda should be used for everything, but I am suggesting …

If there was a competition between running a business on Excel or running a business on Coda, Excel would finish second.

But to those wondering which is better - Coda is better for the same reason you’ll want a Swiss Army Knife if you are facing a multitude of different task types. Typically, as managers, educators, researchers, marketers, and just about every facet of work in a digital world - we need the Swiss Army Knife - Coda.


Yes. If I had to choose one of the two, there would be no thinking, Coda is the best.


I always wince when it becomes so easy to wrap a tidy bow around the term “best”. I also feel trepidation when attempting to subjectively measure two products - one which I hold deep respect for and the other which I have great dependency for. I guess it’s the data guy in me that tries to establish reasoning behind conclusions, however obvious (to us especially) they me be.

Going into the hand-to-hand combat of business, a chart like this helps to quantify why we can so easily come to these seeming “no-brainer” conclusions. But they’re not really no-brainer decisions; we all have cached forward experiences that serve to elevate the conviction of our commitment despite the blink-like conclusiveness of our answer.

I’m sure I missed some key activities and welcome a deeper exploration into what serves such a decision well and in the best interest of all users trying to make this judgement call.


One of the few things i still use excel for (hoping coda adds this at some point), is quick sum/count calculations when highlighting a group of cells :grimacing:


I would also pose the question of “what are the differences between Excel and Coda?” As an Excel user, I used to simplify the differences as Excel is a spreadsheet and Coda is a database. However, as I got more into Coda, I realized that Excel is also a database but with a different user interface. To use a map metaphor … Excel IS a database but gives the user the latitude and longitude coordinates of their data (e.g. “A1, B2, C3”). Coda is also a database but gives the user a map, a compass, and a GPS to get to specific destinations in their data.


The best tool for the job is the tool that gives you the results you need with as little effort as possible and as quick as possible.

There are so many considerations: do you want error checking on your input, are you going to use the setup regularly, will there be a lot of changes in the way you are going to process your data?

And, even though you can do a lot of the same things in either program, the question is … questionable.

Excel excels in its multitude of very specific functions. Some are available in Coda, and if they are not, you can build them yourself. Excel is extremely flexible when it comes to organizing your data - all on one page, on different pages or in different files - to be connected by formulas at will. It can get messy in a hurry, but in the right hands, it is extremely powerful.

One of the biggest drawbacks in Excel is that you have to copy your formulas, thousands of times and when you change a formula, you have to do that again. Fortunately you can do that for the entire column, without knowing in advance how many rows the column will eventually hold, but it will always be a multiple step operation. In Coda, you change a formula and it applies to all rows right away, which is really nice. With the copy and past actions in Excel, a mistake is easily made and easily overlooked.

For many jobs, I would be tempted to say that Coda is a better solution, and even more so in a multi-user environment. Building complex formulas is a lot easier in Coda then in Excel, and really so if you have to use VBA - which is pretty hard to master.

But there is also a matter of scale: I you have Excel sheets with a couple 100K’s of rows, the choice between these two is easily made: you have to use excel. If you need real advanced charting or mapping functions, it is also going to be excel (for now, that is).

But for the majority of jobs (planners, to do lists, organizers, address lists, calculations, etc.): if it fits size-wise in Coda, you are most of the time better of on Coda. I have been a spreadsheet junky for years, but these days I can build better and more robust multiuser docs/worksheets/apps in Coda. I can organize my work better (a 100 sheet Excel doc is not very workable, a 250 page Coda doc can, with some proper organizing, be perfectly manageable.

So, going back to the title of this thread: Coda is very often more practical then Excel, but each program has it’s own merits.


@Piet_Strydom is coda able to set multiple cell values at once like excel, like how you can drag down a date or number field, or even just a text entry? I haven’t been able to find how to set, for instance, the date for multiple items at once.

No, it is not possible to drag, due to the wo apps underlying structures being completely different. But copy and past for the same row value still works.

However, there are ways around create drag and drop lists. Here is one framework that can be used. It i particularly useful for example when you have a set of tasks that are repeatedly used in every new project.

Thanks, I’m going to look into that, still figuring out Coda’s Syntax.

I take it there’s no way to set multipole cell values at once? Having to change the date on 40 rows individually…tedious.

Yes, there is, with a button for example. If you make and share a doc showing what you are trying to do, I will make a button to fill many rows at once

The hard part is too tell which rows to fill: only the blank ones, or the rows with a certain item, or with a checked checkbox, or…

Just tell us what you want to do and one of us will show you how it can be done.

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