How to Edit in Excel Online

By Greg Harvey

Microsoft offers several Office Online web apps for Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote as part of your Windows account and OneDrive storage in the cloud. You can use Excel Online to edit worksheets saved on your OneDrive online right within your web browser.

This comes in real handy for those occasions when you need to make last-minute edits to an Excel sheet but don’t have access to a device on which Excel 2019 is installed. As long as the device has an Internet connection and runs a web browser that supports Excel Online (such as Internet Explorer on a Surface Pro tablet or even Safari on a MacBook Pro), you can make eleventh-hour edits to the data, formulas, and even charts that are automatically saved in the Excel workbook file on your OneDrive.

The great part about using Excel Online to edit a copy of your online workbook is that it runs successfully under the latest versions of Microsoft’s Edge Explorer as well as under the latest versions of many other popular web browsers, including Mozilla Firefox for Windows, Mac, and Linux as well as Macintosh’s Safari web browser on the iMac and iPad.

To edit a workbook saved on your OneDrive with the Excel Online, you follow these simple steps:

  1. Launch the web browser on your device that supports the Excel web app and then go to Office.live.com and sign in to your Windows account.

    The Microsoft Office Home web page welcomes you to your Office 365 account. Under Apps on this page, you see a bunch of buttons for each of the online apps.

  2. Click the Excel button under Apps.

    Excel Online display a Welcome to Excel screen in your web browser. This screen is somewhat similar to the Open screen in Excel 2019. Across the top of this screen, beneath the label New, a bunch of template thumbnails appear in a single row, starting with New Blank Workbook. Below the row of Excel templates, you see the following options for selecting the file you want to edit:

    Editing Excel Online
    Selecting a workbook saved on OneDrive to open for editing in Excel Online.
    • Recent (the default) to list all the workbooks that have recently been uploaded to your OneDrive.
    • Pinned to list just the workbook files that you’ve pinned (to pin a file, mouse over the name of the file in the Recent list and then click the push pin icon that appears after its filename).
    • Shared with Me to list only those workbook files that have been shared with you.
    • Discover to list shared workbooks that others are currently working on.
    • Upload and Open to display a dialog box where you can select a local workbook file to upload and save on OneDrive for editing with Excel Online. Note that if the device on which you’re using Excel Online has Excel installed on it, the Excel Open dialog box will appear. Otherwise, the file management dialog box for the device’s operating system will appear (as in, File Explorer on a Windows machine and Finder on a Mac).

      If you can’t locate the workbook file you want to edit using these options, click the Search Apps, Documents, People, and Sites text box at the top of the Welcome to Excel screen and start typing its filename here. As you type, Excel Online will display a list of results matching the characters that you’ve entered.

  3. Locate the Excel workbook file you want to edit and then click its filename.

    As soon as you select the name of the workbook file to edit, Excel Online opens the workbook in a new tab in your web browser, in the Editing view complete with a File button and the Home, Insert, Data, Review, and View Ribbon tabs.

    Excel Online editing with OneDrive
    Using Excel Online to edit a workbook saved on OneDrive in my web browser.

    You can then use the option buttons on the Home and Insert tabs (most of which are identical to those found on the Home and Insert tabs on the Excel 2019 Ribbon) to modify the layout or formatting of the data and charts on any of its sheets. You can use the options on the Data tab to recalculate your Excel workbook and sort data in ascending or descending order on its worksheets. You can also use the options on the Review add and display comments in the cells of the worksheets as well as options on the View tab to turn off Headings and Gridlines and switch back to Reading view. You can also add new data to the worksheets as well as edit existing data just as you do in Excel 2019.

    Note that if you open a workbook file in Excel Online that contains features that can’t be displayed in your browser, the file will open in a new tab without the Ribbon and a “There are some features in your workbook that we can’t show in the browser” alert will appear above the Worksheet area. To continue and edit a copy of the workbook file with Excel Online without the features that can’t be displayed, click the Edit Workbook drop-down button and then click the Edit in Browser option on the drop-down menu (if Excel is installed on your device and you want access to all the workbook’s features, click the Edit in Excel option instead). When you select the Edit in Browser option, an Edit a Copy dialog box appears. When you click the Edit a Copy button, a Save As dialog box appears and shows Editable appended to the original filename. After you click Save in this dialog box, the copy of the original workbook file opens in Excel Online in Editing view.

  4. When you’re finished editing the Excel workbook, click the Close button on your web browser’s tab to save your changes. If you want to save a copy under a new filename in the same folder on the OneDrive, click File → Save As and then click the Save As option to open a Save As dialog box where you can edit the filename that appears in the text box before you click its Save button. (Or select the Overwrite Existing Files check box if you want to save the changes under the same filename.)

The Excel Online app is a whiz at making simple editing, formatting, and layout changes to your spreadsheet data and charts using common commands on its Home, Insert, and even Chart Tools tab (when a chart is selected). However, Excel Online has no support for graphic objects other than shapes and pictures saved to disk that you can insert with very limited formatting and editing options.

For those times when you need more editing choices, you can open the workbook in a local copy of Excel (assuming that the device you’re using has some compatible version of Excel installed on it) by clicking the Edit in Excel command button on the Ribbon. Or, you can download a copy of the Excel workbook to your local office computer (where you do have Excel 2019 installed) by selecting File → Save As → Download a Copy and make the more advanced edits to this downloaded copy of the file after you get back to the office.