Microsoft brings new AI-powered data types to Excel

Microsoft announced today (opens in new tab) that it is using AI to bring new, richer data types to Excel. The first two of these data types, stocks and geography, will allow Excel to recognize automatically recognize a place or stock and serve up a rich set of data for it.

The new data types tap into the Microsoft Knowledge Graph, which is the same tech used to power Bing answers. "For example, Excel recognizes that "France" is a country and automatically associates it with additional attributes such as population and gross domestic product," Microsoft says (opens in new tab). Once you have the extra attributes, they can then be used to populate other cells or implemented into formulas.

Microsoft bringing new AI-powered data types to Excel

In addition to the new data types, Microsoft has updated Excel Online with some highly requested features from Excel desktop. Excel Online will now allow you to insert Pivot Tables and delete rows and columns to analyze and format data. Images can also now be inserted from local storage, existing worksheets can now be duplicated, and you can now change the color of tabs.

Elsewhere in Office 365 updates for March, Microsoft has started rolling out new features for Sharepoint. Personalized search (opens in new tab), which was first announced last year, is now rolling out to all Office 365 users. Similarly, Office 365 users who are enrolled in Targeted Release can now check out SharePoint hub sites and Yammer feeds can now be added to any SharePoint or webpage.

The big deal here is the addition of the new data types in Excel, and, given Microsoft's current focus on AI, it's likely we'll see even more AI-powered features hit Office 365 apps in the future. The new data types are rolling out this month in preview for Office 365 commercial subscribers as part of the Office Insiders program.

Dan Thorp-Lancaster

Dan Thorp-Lancaster is the former Editor-in-Chief of Windows Central. He began working with Windows Central, Android Central, and iMore as a news writer in 2014 and is obsessed with tech of all sorts. You can follow Dan on Twitter @DthorpL and Instagram @heyitsdtl

  • So what is next? AI sofa? Guess what it can do.
  • Why not? It'll adjust the firmness of the sofa to match what you like : )
  • When is this out for non 365 Insiders?
  • So, you type down a list of countries and AI'll give you a list of possible attributes and fill in the values accordingly?
    Instead of wiki out each value and fill it manually... this is pretty neat!
  • This is actually pretty cool in a very Geeky sort of way. However... I've written literally 1000s of spreadsheets over the years and I can't remember the last time I needed the population of France in one of them. I get the premise, yeah, but until I can say "Hey Cortana tell me how many accounts we have with a balance over $1000, who are past due for over a year, and please dump it into excel for me" or "Tell me how many of my developers are in danger of not meeting their current deadlines" and have Cortana actually understand what I'm asking her to do, then I just can't get all that excited over AI. The human brain is pretty amazing! There's no computer like it. I'm not saying MS shouldn't be adding these features to Outlook. Hey, why not? But the idea that infusing "AI" into Excel is more important than say... 1) bringing Andromeda to market 2) filling the app gap on the MS Store 3) expanding Cortana skills and markets 4) expanding MS Rewards to more markets 5) bringing eSim to Surface Book and Surface Laptop... is preposterous. Not that YOU said that in the article Dan, but that seems to be Microsoft's mantra these days. AI at all costs! All this investment in AI for the population of France while they leave their App Store to wither... mobile to wither... Cortana to wither... MS Rewards to wither... the Surface line to stagnate... is just very hard to understand.
  • I fail to see how drawing on external data is AI. It might be a useful tool or feature, but it's not AI.
  • If it reads the context (the whole sheet) and give you suggestions... why's it not an AI related feature?
  • This is pretty dope feature. Need more AI and Web integration.