Move Excel spreadsheets online, share, embed in a web page and make interactive

Last week we explored a few techniques to convert Excel spreadsheets to HTML. But nowadays when everyone seems to be moving to the cloud, why not we? The new technologies of sharing Excel data online are a way simpler and provide a handful of new opportunities that you can benefit from.

With the emergence of Excel Online, you no longer need cumbrous HTML code to export your tables to the web. Just save your workbook online and access it literally from anywhere, share with other users and work on the same sheet all together. With Excel Online you can also easily embed your worksheet on a web site or blog and let your visitors interact with it to find just the information they are looking for.

Further on in this article, we are going to investigate all these and many other capabilities provided by Excel Online.

How to move Excel 2016 and 2013 spreadsheets online

If you are new to the cloud in general, and Excel Online in particular, the easiest way to start is sharing your existing workbook using the familiar interface of Excel desktop.

All Excel Online spreadsheets are stored on OneDrive web service (formerly, SkyDrive). As you probably know, this online storage has been around for a while, but now it is integrated in Microsoft Excel as an interface option accessible in a click. In addition, your invitees, i.e. other user users that you are sharing your spreadsheets with, no longer need a Microsoft account to view and edit the Excel files you've shared.

If you don't have a OneDrive account yet, you can sign up now. This service is easy, free and definitely worth your attention because most Office 2013 and 2016 applications, not just Excel, support OneDrive. Once you are signed in, proceed with the following steps.

1. Sign into your Microsoft account

Make sure your are also signed into your Microsoft account from within Excel. On your Excel workbook, look at the top right-hand corner. If you see your name and a photo there, you can skip this step, otherwise click the Sign in link.
Sign into your Microsoft account from within Excel.

Excel will display a message asking to confirm that you really want to allow Office to connect to the Internet. Click Yes, and then enter your Windows Live credentials.

2. Save your Excel spreadsheet to cloud

Verify that you have the right workbook open, i.e. the one you want to share online, just to be on the safe side. In this example, I will be sharing a Holiday Gift List so that my family members and friends can view it and contribute : )
A workbook created in Excel 2013 desktop to be shared online.

With the correct workbook open, navigate to the File tab, click Share in the left pane. The Invite People option will be selected by default and you click Save To Cloud in the right pane.
Navigate to the File tab and click Share > Save To Cloud.

After that choose a cloud location to save your Excel file. OneDrive is the first option you will see on the right selected by default, and you simply choose the destination folder in the left pane.

Note: If you don't see the OneDrive option, then either you don't have a OneDrive account or you are not sighed in.

Choose a folder on OneDrive to save your Excel workbook.

I've already created a special Gift Planner folder and it shows up in the Recent Folders list. You can choose any other folder by clicking the Browse button underneath the Recent Folders list or create a new one in the usual manner by right clicking anywhere within the right part of the Save As dialog window and selecting New > Folder from the context menu. With the proper folder selected, click the Save button.

3. Share the spreadsheet you saved online

Your Excel workbook is already online and you can view it on your OneDrive>. If you wish to share the online spreadsheet with other people, one more step is left for you to do - choose one of the following sharing options:

  • Invite People (default). Just enter the email addresses of the contact(s) you want to share your Excel worksheet with. As you type, Excel's AutoComplete will compare your input with the names and addresses in your Address Book and display all matches. To add several contacts, separate the names with a semi-colon. Or, click the Search Address Book icon Search Address Book icon to search for contacts in your Global Address list.

    You can set viewing or editing permissions for the contacts by choosing the corresponding option from the drop down list on the right. If you are adding several invitees, the permissions will apply to all, but you will be able to change the permissions for each particular person later.

    You can also include a personal message to the invitation. If you do not enter anything, Excel will add a generic invitation for you.

    Lastly, you choose whether a user is required to sign-in into their Windows Live account before they can access your online spreadsheet. I don't see any particular reason why they should, but it's up to you.

    When done, click the Share button. Each of the invited contacts will receive an email message containing a link to the file you shared. They simply click the link to open your Excel spreadsheet online, on OneDrive.Inviting people to view or edit the Excel workbook you shared.

    Upon clicking the Share button, Excel will display the list of contacts you have shared the file with. If you want to remove someone from the list or edit the permissions, right click the name and choose the corresponding option from the context menu.To remove an invitee from the list or edit the permissions, right click the name and choose the corresponding option from the context menu.

  • Sharing Link. If you want to share your online Excel sheet with many people, a faster way would be sending them a link to the file, e.g. using an Outlook distribution or mailing list. You choose the Get a Sharing Link option in the left pane and grab either a View Link or Edit Link or both in the right pane.
    Get a sharing link.
  • Post to Social Networks. This option's name is self-explanatory and hardly requires any explanations, maybe just one remark. If you have chosen this sharing option but do not see the list of social networks in the right pane, click the Connect social networks link and you will be able to choose your Facebook, Twitter, Google, LinkedIn and other accounts.
    Post to Social Networks.
  • Email. If you prefer to send your Excel workbook as attachment (a usual Excel file, PDF or XPS) as well as internet fax, choose Email on the left and the appropriate option on the right.
    Sending a shared workbook by attachment
Tip: If you want to limit the areas of your Excel workbook that other users can view, switch to the File > Info and click Browser View Options. You will be able to choose the sheets and named items you want to display on the Web.

That's all! Your Excel workbook is online and shared with other users of your choosing. And even if you are not collaborating with anybody, this is an easy way to access your Excel files virtually from anywhere, no matter whether you are at the office, work from home or travel.

Working with workbooks in Excel Online

If you are a confident inhabitant of the Cloud universe, you won't have any problems with mastering Excel Online during your lunch break.

How to create a workbook in Excel Online

To create a new workbook, click a little arrow next to Create and choose Excel workbook from the drop-down list.
Creating a workbook in Excel Online

To rename your online workbook, click the default file name and type a new one.
Renaming a workbook in Excel Online

To upload your existing workbook to Excel Online, click on the Upload button on the OneDrive toolbar and browse for the file on your computer.
Uploading an existing workbook to Excel Online

How to edit workbooks in Excel Online

Once you have the workbook open on Excel Online, you can work with it using Excel Web App almost in the same way you use Excel desktop: enter data, sort and filter, calculate with formulas and present your data visually with charts.

There is only one significant difference between web-based Excel spreadsheets and desktop. Excel Online does not have the Save button because it saves your workbooks automatically. If you've changed your mind about something, press Ctrl+Z and Ctrl+Y to undo or redo, respectively. You can use the Undo / Redo buttons on the Home Tab > Undo group for the same purpose.

If you are trying to edit some data but nothing happens, most likely you are in read-only view. To switch to editing mode, click Edit Workbook > Edit in Excel Web App and make quick changes directly in your web browser. For more advanced data analysis features such as pivot tables, sparklines or connecting to an external data source, click Edit in Excel to switch to the desktop version.

To switch to editing mode, click Edit Workbook > Edit in Excel Web App.

When you save the spreadsheet in your Excel, it will be saved where you originally created it, i.e. in your OneDrive.

Tip: If you want to make quick changes in several workbooks, the fastest way is to open the list of files on your OneDrive, find the workbook you want, right click it and select the needed action from the context menu.
To make changes in several workbooks, open the list of files on your OneDrive, right click the needed workbook and select the action from the context menu.

How to share Excel Online spreadsheets with other users

To share your web based Excel spreadsheet, click Share > Share with People and then choose either:

  • Invite People and type the email addresses of people you want to share the workbook with, or
  • Get a link to paste it to an email message, web-page or social media sites.

Sharing Excel Online spreadsheets with other users

You can also choose whether you want to give viewing or editing permissions to your contacts.

Choose whether you want to give viewing or editing permissions to your contacts.

When several people are editing the worksheet at the same time, Excel Online shows their presence and the updates straight away, provided that everyone is editing in Excel Online, not in Excel desktop. When you click a little arrow next to the person's name in the top right-hand corner of your spreadsheet, you can even see which exactly cell is being edited at the moment.
Excel Online shows who is editing the workbook as well as the updates.

How to lock certain cells for editing in a shared worksheet

If you are sharing your online sheets with a number of people, you may want to limit the editing rights for your team members only to certain cells, rows or columns in your Excel document on OneDrive. To do this, you need to choose the range(s) that you allow to edit in your desktop Excel and then protect the worksheet.

  1. Select the range of cells that your users can edit, go to the Review tab and click "Allow Users to Edit Ranges" in the Changes group.

    Select the range your users can edit, go to the Review tab and click 'Allow Users to Edit Ranges.

  2. In the Allow Users to Edit Ranges dialog, click the New... button, verify that the range is correct and click Protect Sheet. If you want to allow your users to edit several ranges, click the New... button again.

    Protect the worksheet before uploading it to OneDrive

  3. Enter the password twice and upload the protected sheet to OneDrive.

    For more information, please check out this article - How to lock or unlock specific areas in a worksheet.

Use Excel Web App to embed the online spreadsheet onto a website or blog

If you want to publish your Excel workbook on a web-site or blog, perform these 3 quick steps in the Excel Web App:

  1. With the workbook open in Excel Online, click Share > Embed, and then click the Generate button.
    With the workbook open in Excel Online, click Share > Generate.
  2. In the next step, you decide how exactly you want your spreadsheet to appear on the web. The following customization options are available to you:
      • What to show section. It lets you embed the entire workbook or its part such as a range of cells, pivot table etc.
      • Appearance. In this section, you can customize the appearance of your workbook (show and hide grid lines and column headers, include a download link).
      • Interaction. Allow or disallow users to interact with your spreadsheet - sort, filter and type into cells. If you allow typing, the changes that other people make in the cells on the web will not be saved in the original workbook. If you want to a certain cell to be selected when the web page opens, select the "Always start with this cell selected" check box, and then click the cell you want in the preview that is displayed the right part of the window.
      • Dimensions. Type a width and height for the spreadsheet viewer, in pixels. To see how the viewer will look with the sizes you've defined, click the "View actual size" link at the top of the preview. Just keep in mind that you can specify a minimum of 200 x 100 pixels and a maximum of 640 x 655 pixels. If you want to use other dimensions outside these limits, you will be able to modify the code later using any HTML editor or directly on your web-site or blog.

    Customize the spreadsheet appearance on the web.

  3. All that is left for you to do is click the Copy link underneath the Embed code section and paste the HTML code (or JavaScript markup) onto your blog or a web-site.
    Note: The embed code is an iframe, so make sure your web-site supports iframes and blog editor allows iframes in posts.

Embedded Excel Web App

What you see below is an interactive Excel spreadsheet that illustrates the technique in action. This "Days Until Next Birthday" app calculates how many days are left until your next birthday, anniversary or other event and shades the gaps in different tints of green, yellow and red. In the Excel Web App, just enter your events in the first column and try changing the corresponding dates to experiment with the results.

If you are curious to know the formula, please check out this article - How to conditionally format dates in Excel.

Excel Web App mashups

If you want to get more interactions between your web-based Excel spreadsheets and other web apps or services, you can use the JavaScript API available on OneDrive to create interactive data mashups.

Below you can see the Destination Explorer mashup created by the Excel Web App team as an example of what web developers can create for your website or blog. This mashup uses the APIs of Excel Services JavaScript and Bing Maps and its purpose is to help the web-site visitors choose a destination where they want to travel. You can choose a location and the mashup will show you the local weather or the number of tourists that visit the area. The screenshot below shows our location :)

The Destination Explorer mashup

Those of you that have some knowledge of JavaScript may find the following resources helpful: API Explorer and Destination Explorer mashup how-to sample.

As you see, working in Excel Online is simple. Now that you know the basics, you can explore the other features and manage your online spreadsheets with ease and confidence!

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