Microsoft Excel spreadsheets now take custom live data

Jon Fingas
·Associate Editor
·1-min read

Microsoft is still finding ways to inject drama into spreadsheets. The Verge points out that Microsoft is giving Excel support for custom live data types, expanding the content you can include well past text, numbers and the occasional stock quote. You could slip a country’s data into a cell and create a formula that extracts the most recent population for your sheet, for example.

The approach works by using logic to structure the data you insert into a given cell, using Power BI to connect data types with Excel for business users. Existing cells can even be turned into linked data types, and you can use a Power Query feature to turn imported data into its own type.

Access is limited at first. If you’re an everyday user, you can only use Wolfram Alpha data as part of an Office Insider preview — Microsoft 365 users will have to wait. The corporate crowd can use Power BI data types in Excel for Windows for Microsoft 365 and Office 365 subscribers that also have Power BI Pro service plans.

How well this works will depend on how Microsoft interprets data. You might still have to tweak a dataset if Excel doesn’t know what to make of it. All the same, this could make Excel spreadsheets much more useful for putting data to work — you can easily use live, evolving info instead of painstakingly entering it by hand.