Microsoft Excel Announces Enhanced AI Features

Microsoft has announced the addition of new AI-powered “rich data” types to Excel to give customers a way to quickly access information about stocks and geography.

“With added AI capabilities, Excel can now recognize rich data types beyond number and text strings,” wrote Kirk Koenigsbauer, corporate vice president for the Office team, in a blog post.

Excel, for example, can now recognize “France” as a country and can associate it with other data such as population and gross domestic product. Users can even create a spreadsheet with a list of places, including area, population and median income—and all without leaving the program.

The “rich data” also provides information about stocks, including symbols, fund names and share prices on companies that are entered in a list. By using a refresh function, users can pull the latest data to receive updated share prices.

“These attributes can then be populated into different cells or used directly in formulas and stay updated with the latest data,” Koenigsbauer wrote.

The new data types can be easily accessed by typing a cell number, adding a dot and then selecting from a drop-down list of attributes. Users can also utilize these attributes for filters, charts and pivot tables.

Excel will also use AI to help recognize ambiguous entries. For example, if the name “Franklin” is entered in a list of cities, Excel will automatically guess the correct one depending on the context, or it will ask users to specify which they are referring to, such as “Franklin, Virginia” or “Franklin, Tennessee.”

The new AI-powered features are located in the “Data” tab on Excel, and can currently only be found in the latest version of Microsoft Excel for Office 365 users who have opted into the Insiders program. The feature is expected to roll out to all Office 365 subscribers at some time in the near future.