Microsoft Excel Is Going Beyond Text and Numbers

Microsoft is taking Excel beyond text and numbers. The company is today introducing new data types for Excel, starting off with Stocks and Geography.

The new data types, powered by Microsoft’s Knowledge Graph, allows users to embed rich geographic and financial data within their spreadsheets. For example, the new Geography data type allows users to get key information about a country, city, state, postcode, area, or continent. They can easily get access to information such as the population, political leaders, location, time zones, etc. without having to manually search them on the web. This data can be then used to take things to the next level with Excel’s existing filtering systems and rich charts.

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Just like geographic data, users can easily work with financial data such as stock prices. These two new data types work with the usual Excel formulas, so you can use these data types in combination with any functions like performing calculations using the dot operator. Most of the data provided for the new data types are also refreshable, so one can quickly update them and get the latest changes to the data without having to manually update them. Excel is also clever when it comes to detecting data types — for example, the app will automatically know that England is a country and AAPL is a stock, and it’ll provide rich data accordingly.

These new data types for Excel, combined with other intelligent features in other Office apps will likely be the primary focus for the next update to Microsoft’s suite of productivity apps. With Office 2019, Microsoft’s focus seems to be on adding intelligent, cloud-driven features to its Office apps, which isn’t anything surprising to see. For now, though, you can play around with the new data types in Excel today if you are part of the Office Insiders program.

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Conversation 24 comments

  • MikeGalos

    29 March, 2018 - 12:09 pm

    <p>Fantastic news. This has been on my wish list for a while. </p><p><br></p><p>Now if only we could get an object/rule model similar to the old Javelin product (or its later clone, Lotus Improv) we'd be on our way to making modeling relatively easy.</p>

    • hrlngrv

      Premium Member
      29 March, 2018 - 2:48 pm

      <p><a href="#257448"><em>In reply to MikeGalos:</em></a></p><p>There are such modeling tools already. Google Quantrix.</p><p>The problem with these was handling exceptions and adjustments. Start using a lot of cell-specific formulas, and the benefits of such systems disappear rapidly. Also, these sucked for discounted cashflow modeling.</p><p>These satisfied a basic rule of thumb: anything this sort of modeling software could handle, a RDBMS could also handle, it's just that modeling software handled crosstabbing much more efficiently.</p>

      • MikeGalos

        29 March, 2018 - 4:09 pm

        <blockquote><a href="#257532"><em>In reply to hrlngrv:</em></a></blockquote><p>Sorry. I should have been more specific. I'm looking more for simplified versions of n-dimensional modeling tools for building OLAP data cubes and snowflake data models. </p><p><br></p><p>There are good tools for building the large data systems but I miss Javelin and Improv's use of those same models for local models. </p>

        • hrlngrv

          Premium Member
          29 March, 2018 - 6:01 pm

          <p><a href="#257554"><em>In reply to MikeGalos:</em></a></p><p>Javelin died off before Windows 95 came out, and IIRC, Improv died off before Windows XP came out. S<span style="background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);">ince XP, t</span>he only OLAP software I spent any time using was TM/1, and I have to say I disliked it intensely.</p>

          • MikeGalos

            29 March, 2018 - 10:08 pm

            <blockquote><a href="#257598"><em>In reply to hrlngrv:</em></a></blockquote><p>AFAIK there hasn't been a really useful interactive OLAP system since those. And, yeah, Javelin Plus (the last version) was an MS-DOS application and Improv came out first for the NeXT Cube, was ported to Windows and lasted only one year and was killed off in 1994.</p><p><br></p>

  • dcdevito

    29 March, 2018 - 12:16 pm

    <p>I think besides the web browser, I'd say Excel is the 2nd best desktop application ever.</p><p>With that said, <a href="; target="_blank">Google has a leg up on this type of stuff</a></p>

  • will

    Premium Member
    29 March, 2018 - 12:32 pm

    <p>I like the new Microsoft that says "You don't have to use Windows to use our stuff".</p>

    • Alastair Cooper

      02 April, 2018 - 6:07 am

      <blockquote><a href="#257457"><em>In reply to will:</em></a></blockquote><p><br></p><p>Except you still do to use 'full-featured' Office. Even Office for Mac isn't quite there.</p>

  • Daekar

    29 March, 2018 - 12:54 pm

    <p>Wow! With the exception of wondering where this data comes from and how reliable it is, I have no reservations. This looks pretty darn neat! Nice to see some real innovation in a legacy application – although, given how well Office has been handled lately and how useful the various mobile/web versions are, maybe it's not fair to call it that.</p>

  • rameshthanikodi

    29 March, 2018 - 1:01 pm

    <p>shit, this is great!</p>

  • Chris_Kez

    Premium Member
    29 March, 2018 - 1:09 pm

    <p>Glad to see this advancing but I'd like to see Microsoft lean into visualization to compete with stuff like Tableau or Spotfire.</p>

    • hrlngrv

      Premium Member
      29 March, 2018 - 2:39 pm

      <p><a href="#257476"><em>In reply to Chris_Kez:</em></a></p><p>Depends whether Excel is a generalist tool or a conflagration of specialist tools. Given the charting questions asked in various online Excel forums, most Excel users have trouble with X-Y scatter charts. As for business charts, much has been written comparing Excel's charts with default settings to charts in The Economist and Financial Times, and Excel comes up wanting much more often than not.</p>

    • Rodend

      Premium Member
      29 March, 2018 - 5:15 pm

      <blockquote><a href="#257476"><em>In reply to Chris_Kez:</em></a></blockquote><p>I would argue that's exactly what PowerBI accomplishes…and it can be feed directly from Excel.</p>

      • Chris_Kez

        Premium Member
        29 March, 2018 - 9:40 pm

        <blockquote><a href="#257568"><em>In reply to Rodend:</em></a></blockquote><p>Fair. I haven't looked at Power BI in a long time; will give it another go.</p>

    • jbinaz

      29 March, 2018 - 5:46 pm

      <blockquote><a href="#257476"><em>In reply to Chris_Kez:</em></a></blockquote><p>Power BI?</p>

      • Chris_Kez

        Premium Member
        29 March, 2018 - 9:40 pm

        <blockquote><a href="#257576"><em>In reply to jbinaz:</em></a></blockquote><p>Downloading it now; will give it another try.</p>

  • john.boufford

    29 March, 2018 - 7:50 pm

    <p>I'd like to see them come up with a product like SmartSheet or AirTable. They have the pieces but they are scattered among a number of different products such as Excel, Access, Planner, etc.</p>

  • Michael Jones

    29 March, 2018 - 9:04 pm

    <p>It's about damn time. I've had to use Google Sheets for YEARS now to be able to easily lookup stock prices. Hated it, but the only other way to do it has been crappy URL pointers that don't work or super expensive addins that are always subject to breakage with VBA upgrades and security changes. </p><p><br></p><p>As noted, they are still playing catch up though in some ways to basic features in Google Docs. </p>

  • Patrick Wingert

    30 March, 2018 - 6:18 pm

    <p>I used a program called Javelin many years ago that gave me multi dimensional views and graphs and charts. The company eventually got <span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); background-color: transparent;">bought out by IRI and then Oracle bought IRI and discontinued the product because it was competing with Oracles software. But it was the best analysis tool at the time. JPvellin pioneered the concept of pivot tables and data arrays!</span></p>

    • MikeGalos

      31 March, 2018 - 7:59 pm

      <blockquote><a href="#257978"><em>In reply to pwingert:</em></a></blockquote><p>Absolutely. As we talk above, Lotus cloned Javelin Plus in a GUI version first for NeXT and later for Windows 3.1 as Lotus Improv. It also died after an acquisition – in this case Lotus Development being bought by IBM who killed it. </p><p><br></p><p>Quantrix is similar but is really tied to a corporate licensing model and not a consumer product.</p>

    • MikeGalos

      31 March, 2018 - 8:02 pm

      <blockquote><a href="#257978"><em>In reply to pwingert:</em></a></blockquote><p>Another thing Javelin pioneered was date aware data types so you could have a table of sales with dates and say things like</p><p><br></p><p>(forgive the notation but's comment software doesn't like to allow formatting correctly so I'm using dot notation rather than Javelin's positional)</p><p><br></p><p>Sales. January</p><p>or</p><p>Sales.Q2</p><p>or</p><p>Sales.Thursday</p><p><br></p><p>And it would do the rollups (or averages if you were working in the other direction) without having to create specific rules or separate entries or static formulas. </p>

  • johnbenallen

    02 April, 2018 - 11:07 am

    <p>"<span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">the app will automatically know that England is a country"</span></p><p><br></p><p><span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">England isn't a country, strictly speaking, it's part of the United Kingdom. Rich data need to be accurate!</span></p>

  • pratik123

    08 March, 2019 - 5:13 am

    <p>Thanks for such a piece of information. There is a problem in my PC, it showing "Microsoft Excel is waiting for another application to complete <a href="; target="_blank">OLE</a> action" while closing excel workbook each time and it freezes. </p>

  • birju009

    16 June, 2019 - 11:49 pm

    <p><a href="; target="_blank" style="color: rgb(106, 106, 106);"><strong>Microsoft</strong></a><span style="color: rgb(84, 84, 84);">&nbsp;is taking</span><a href="; target="_blank" style="color: rgb(84, 84, 84);">&nbsp;</a><a href="; target="_blank" style="color: rgb(106, 106, 106);"><strong>Excel beyond text and numbers</strong></a><span style="color: rgb(84, 84, 84);">. … The new data types, powered by&nbsp;</span><a href="; target="_blank" style="color: rgb(106, 106, 106);"><strong>Microsoft's </strong></a><span style="color: rgb(84, 84, 84);">Knowledge Graph, allows users to embed rich geographic and financial data within their spreadsheets.</span></p>

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