Project management software or Scheduling software - Can Excel replace them?
Not everyone uses project management software or scheduling software to manage projects. Some reasons are - the lack of knowledge in project management (and Gantt chart), or just hindered by the cost of a dedicated project management software.
The good news is, not every project needs to be managed by advanced project management software. Well, most of us just wouldn't need dedicated project management software or scheduling software. Microsoft Excel can handle project management tasks quite well - even creating Gantt charts won't be a problem. Don't get me wrong, Microsoft Excel can't replace all the features of a stand-alone project management software / scheduling software (like Microsoft Project).
For most of us, using Excel is good enough for project management - add tasks, timeline, durations, dates, resources and Gantt chart. And the best thing is, you don't even need to create all these from scratch. You can get free Excel Gantt chart templates from the web. A lot of people are already using Excel to manage personal finances, instead of budget software or accounting software - so, for simple requirements, Excel can replace a number of software programs. Try googling the phrase 'free excel gantt chart template' and you will be able to find a number of them which are good enough as replacements for scheduling software or project management software.
You do not have to worry about macro virus as most of the free Excel Gantt chart templates do not contain macros, only worksheet functions are used to create the templates.
If you see some formula errors in certain cells of the free templates, just check the worksheet function in the cells and search Microsoft Excel Help. It may be just because you do not have some add-in installed (like the Analysis ToolPak - it's bundled with your Microsoft Excel/Office software CD)
If your needs have 'outgrown' the simple Excel Gantt chart templates, you can always consider getting dedicated/stand-alone project management software or scheduling software, like Microsoft Poject. Or something in between, like ProjeX Excel add-in - it's not a stand-alone project management software or scheduling software, it runs in Excel and replaces some of the functionality of Microsoft Project - and it's menu based (just like exTools). ProjeX is not free but a free limited-functionality version is available.
You may also want to check out a free stand-alone project management software, the GanttProject.
Microsoft Excel can also be used to work as your personal budget software or accounting software. All you need to do is plan out the columns and rows properly and also format the worksheet in the way that best suits your needs.