Excel is a spreadsheet program that is part of Microsoft's industry-leading Office suite of applications. A spreadsheet is a computer application that organizes data in rows and columns. The data can then be manipulated using different formulas to achieve different results.
Spreadsheets are often used in the accounting world to manage finances. Spreadsheets are also often used for family budgets. Excel has increased in power over the years and is now used for functions that go well beyond financial and statistical analyses.
As if often the case, Microsoft's Office suite (which includes Excel) is the most commonly used program of its kind, but other firms have sought to eat into Microsoft's market share. Open Office now features a spreadsheet similar to Excel, as does Google's suite of online applications. The popularity of Google's applications have actually influenced the version of Excel that will be released when Microsoft's next product update is released. For the first time, Microsoft intends to provide their Office products as online applications.