A new MS Excel feature announced by Microsoft in a blog post by its corporate vice president for the Office team provides a glimpse as to what to expect in a near-future patch of MS Excel. From this post, it would seem that Microsoft is enhancing its MS Excel platform with two new cloud-connected “rich data” types intended to enhance the way in which information on companies and places can be accessed, used and updated.
These rich data types make use of added Artificial Intelligence (AI) capabilities, and allow Excel to recognise rich data types beyond numbers and text strings that initially come in the form of geography and stocks data types, and which may then be extended to other data types later. These will allow users to pull information from Microsoft’s vast Knowledge Graph and insert it inside their spreadsheets. The underlying principle is to make Excel smarter and to enable it to understand these type of entries and offer additional information when such entries are identified.
By way of example, after adding a cities listing to a worksheet and clicking on the Geography button, a list of all the data Microsoft has on those locations that can be accessed directly from within Excel will be made available. This includes information such as the cities’ population, area, inhabitant median income, time zone and the like. An example is shown below.
Excel will also elicit Microsoft’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) capabilities to help identify any ambiguous entries. This is presently a significant issue with MS Excel’s Bing Maps feature. With the release of the new rich data types, if a user uses Rabat as the place name in a list of cities, Excel will reference the correct Rabat on a contextual basis. If this is not possible it will prompt the users to choose which one is being referred to, whether it is the one in Malta, the one in Gozo or the one in Morocco.
The Stocks data types will also be useful to anyone working with stock markets and provide detailed information such as fund names, ticker symbols and up-to-date equity prices on the companies entered into the list.
The new rich data types strive to bring advanced functionalities to people who aren’t MS Excel power users and make it easier to be able to be productive without knowing the ins and outs of MS Excel. They have been designed to be easy to access and to be easily refreshable.
For the time being, the new rich data types are currently in beta version and as such are available to Office Insiders who are signed up for access to early software releases. At the end of the testing period, this feature will roll out to all Office subscribers.
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