Microsoft Excel Is Going Beyond Text and Numbers

Posted on March 29, 2018 by Mehedi Hassan in Cloud, Office with 24 Comments

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.

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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Comments (24)

24 responses to “Microsoft Excel Is Going Beyond Text and Numbers”

  1. MikeGalos

    Fantastic news. This has been on my wish list for a while.

    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.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to MikeGalos:

      There are such modeling tools already. Google Quantrix.

      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.

      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.

      • MikeGalos

        In reply to hrlngrv:

        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.

        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.

        • hrlngrv

          In reply to MikeGalos:

          Javelin died off before Windows 95 came out, and IIRC, Improv died off before Windows XP came out. Since XP, the only OLAP software I spent any time using was TM/1, and I have to say I disliked it intensely.

          • MikeGalos

            In reply to hrlngrv:

            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.

  2. pratik123

    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 OLE action" while closing excel workbook each time and it freezes.

  3. johnbenallen

    "the app will automatically know that England is a country"

    England isn't a country, strictly speaking, it's part of the United Kingdom. Rich data need to be accurate!

  4. Patrick Wingert

    I used a program called Javelin many years ago that gave me multi dimensional views and graphs and charts. The company eventually got 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!

    • MikeGalos

      In reply to pwingert:

      Another thing Javelin pioneered was date aware data types so you could have a table of sales with dates and say things like

      (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)

      Sales. January





      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.

    • MikeGalos

      In reply to pwingert:

      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.

      Quantrix is similar but is really tied to a corporate licensing model and not a consumer product.

  5. Michael Jones

    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.

    As noted, they are still playing catch up though in some ways to basic features in Google Docs.

  6. john.boufford

    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.

  7. Chris_Kez

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

  8. Daekar

    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.

  9. will

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

  10. dcdevito

    I think besides the web browser, I'd say Excel is the 2nd best desktop application ever.

    With that said, Google has a leg up on this type of stuff

  11. birju009

    Microsoft is taking Excel beyond text and numbers. ... The new data types, powered by Microsoft's Knowledge Graph, allows users to embed rich geographic and financial data within their spreadsheets.

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