Big Data
May 31, 2023

LibreOffice Calc Max Rows? 1,048,576 is the Limit

Recently, I have been testing the limits of several spreadsheet platforms to see whether they can process large spreadsheets or not.  

On Monday, I tried pushing the boundaries of Zoho Sheet, only to find out that Zoho Sheet’s max row limit stands at 65,536. Yesterday, I stress-tested Apple Numbers and discovered that a single sheet of Apple Numbers can’t handle more than 1,000,000 rows.

Since the past three days, I have been testing the limits of LibreOffice Calc. And I’ll be sharing my observations in this blog post. Throughout this post, you can expect me to answer questions like:

  • What are the limitations of LibreOffice Calc?
  • Why does LibreOffice Calc has these limitations?
  • Last but not least, how to get around these limitations?

So, without further ado, let’s dive straight into it.

What are the limitations of LibreOffice Calc?

Earlier LibreOffice Calc used to have a maximum row limit of 65,536. But as of this writing, the spreadsheet platform’s maximum row limit stands at 1,048,576. It’s the same as Microsoft Excel.  

However, it’s important to note that Microsoft Excel’s column limit goes up to 16,384. LibreOffice Calc’s max column limit stands at 1,024.

Also here are a few other interesting observations:

  • LibreOffice Calc can hold up to 10,000 sheets – that’s a lot.
  • The maximum cell limit in one LibreOffice sheet stands at 1,073,741,824.
  • The maximum number of characters in one cell stands at 32,767.

But it’s important to note that these are just programmatic limitations and don’t really reflect practical usage scenarios. The amount of data that can really be processed by LibreOffice Calc depends on a lot of factors like hardware specifications, available memory and complexity of calculations being performed.

Unfortunately, my laptop crashed several times while testing the spreadsheet platform. In the end, I had to look for some relevant documentations to find out what technical limitations LibreOffice Cal has in place.

Also, it’s important to note that - about a decade ago, over a million rows seemed like a lot of data. But as of this writing, a million rows feel nothing. Companies are generating data at the speed of light. And the problem with spreadsheet platforms like Microsoft Excel,  Google Sheets, LibreOffice, and many more is that – they are not meant to process big data.

This brings me to my question – “A few years from now, when companies are generating even more data, how will these spreadsheet platforms cope with the increasing demand?”

It’s something that Jason Hines, the CEO at Gigasheet, thought about and launched Gigasheet, our big data cloud spreadsheet platform that holds the ability to process humongous-sized spreadsheet files without breaking neck. But more on that later, let’s talk about why LibreOffice calc has these limitations in place.

Why does the Max Rows in LibreOffice Calc Limit Exist?

If you’re curious about why exactly LibreOffice has these limitations and whether there’s a possibility for them to increase the max limits in the future, let me explain.

One of the primary reasons behind these limitations is LibreOffice Calc’s design and architecture. Downloadable spreadsheet platforms like LibreOffice Calc store data in two-dimensional arrays. Each cell in the array is represented as a memory address and requires a fixed amount of memory.

When working with datasets, LibreOffice Calc uses virtual memory to manage memory usage. Virtual memory allows the computer to use a portion of the hard disk as if it were memory. However, using virtual memory can significantly impact performance, as accessing data on the hard disk is much slower than accessing data in physical memory.

The more rows and columns you add, the more is the memory LibreOffice Calc requires to operate. This can make it extremely challenging for spreadsheet platforms like LibreOffice Calc to handle large datasets without crashing or slowing down – and hence the reason behind these limitations.

To avoid these performance issues, spreadsheet applications like Apple Numbers have to put a limit on the amount of data they can handle.

Jason Hines further added, “Desktop spreadsheet applications are limited in the amount of data they can handle due to their reliance on the processing power and memory of the computer they are installed on. These limitations are inherent to the hardware specifications of the machine, such as the processor speed, RAM, and storage capacity.”

Whether these limitations will ever be increased or whether these spreadsheet applications will ever be able to handle big data, it’s challenging to say. While the teams behind these spreadsheet applications may always be looking for ways to optimize their applications and performance, there may be some technical challenges that they may be facing –  it’s not easy otherwise, every spreadsheet platform out there would easily have processed big data.

That’s where Gigasheet comes in.

Gigasheet can easily process big data cloud spreadsheets – spreadsheets with millions or billions of rows. What makes Gigasheet different?

Let’s find out.

How to get around LibreOffice Calc’s limitations?

The answer is Gigasheet. Gigasheet is a cloud-based spreadsheet platform that can easily handle big data spreadsheets.

According to Jason, “Cloud-based spreadsheet applications like Gigasheet can handle larger amounts of data due to their use of clusters of networked servers for processing and storage. By leveraging the computing resources of these servers, Gigasheet can scale its processing power to meet the needs of its users, allowing for the processing of larger datasets without running into the limitations of desktop applications. In addition, Gigasheet employs distributed computing and parallel processing techniques to process large amounts of data more efficiently.”

He further added, “Gigasheet is designed to be highly scalable, capable of handling a large number of users simultaneously without sacrificing performance. It achieves this through a combination of distributed computing, load balancing, and other techniques that allow it to efficiently manage and allocate computing resources as needed. As a result, Gigasheet offers a powerful solution for businesses and individuals who need to work with large datasets in a cloud-based environment.”

A month ago, I uploaded a massive 140+ GB spreadsheet file to Gigasheet. You can read about my experience here. Apart from Gigasheet’s ability to handle large data spreadsheets, you can tap into our platform’s wide range of functionalities like data filtering, grouping, enrichment to smartly analyze your data.

Over the last few months, I have used Gigasheet to perform several analysis, which you can read about here:

And the best part is – Gigasheet is free to get started.

Try it out for yourself.

The ease of a spreadsheet with the power of a database, at cloud scale.

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