Posey's Tips & Tricks
What Money in Excel Means for the Future of Microsoft 365 Apps
Microsoft's new personal finance tool hints at what's in store for next-generation Office applications, from more third-party integrations to subscription requirements.
Two months ago, I wrote about Microsoft Excel's support for some really interesting new data types. In that column, I also talked about how Microsoft was going to be kicking things off by bringing some new personal finance features to Excel through a feature called Money in Excel.
Money in Excel is a tool to help users manage their personal finance through an Excel spreadsheet. It makes it possible to link your accounts to Excel, track spending, manage recurring expenses and compare your income and spending to previous years. If you would like to see Money in Excel in action, Microsoft provides some really nice screen captures here.
Microsoft released Money in Excel in mid-June. Initially, I had planned to write an in-depth review of this new feature since it is such a significant addition to Excel. As it turns out, though, Money in Excel is only available to those who have a Personal or Family subscription to Microsoft 365. I have an Enterprise subscription, so I am unfortunately unable to access Money in Excel.
Given that I don't even have a way to access the software, and that the software is inaccessible to those who have business-oriented Microsoft 365 subscriptions, I seriously considered not writing about it. Even so, I ultimately decided that it was worth a column because looking at what Microsoft has done with Money in Excel gives us a glimpse into what Microsoft might have planned for the future.
As I familiarized myself with Money in Excel, there were three things that caught my attention. First, Money in Excel isn't actually included in Excel; it exists as a downloadable template. This fact really isn't all that significant by itself. Microsoft has long maintained a huge library of Office templates. This template library includes templates for everything from newsletters to budget reports.
Most of the templates within the template library are free. Anyone can download them. However, Microsoft also maintains a collection of premium templates. To the best of my knowledge, Microsoft doesn't charge for any of the premium templates, but you do have to be a Microsoft 365 subscriber to download them.
Money in Excel seems to be the first Office template to require a specific Microsoft 365 subscription (as opposed to being available to anyone who has any type of Microsoft 365 subscription). My guess is that going forward, it will become much more common for Microsoft to require specific Microsoft 365 subscriptions in order to access premium templates. Doing so would be a way to encourage customers to purchase their own personal Microsoft 365 subscriptions rather than simply relying on the subscriptions provided by the IT departments where they work.
A second thing that caught my attention about Money in Excel is that although the template is provided by Microsoft, it depends on services provided by a third-party company. Excel is unable to download your banking information on its own. In order to do that, Microsoft is leveraging a service called Plaid. Plaid provides connectivity to various financial institutions and puts the corresponding account data into a format that Excel can understand.
Being that Excel lacks the ability to access financial accounts on its own, it makes total sense that Microsoft would have to outsource the process to a third-party provider. However, Microsoft's use of Plaid sets a precedent for the future. My guess is that we will see Microsoft form partnerships with other providers to create even more powerful Office templates.
Finally, I find it interesting that even though Money in Excel is really just a template, it behaves more like an application that runs inside Excel. Of course, Excel has supported macros for decades, and macros can help a spreadsheet behave somewhat like an application. Even so, Money in Excel is the first Excel spreadsheet I have seen that feels like a full-blown application.
It really makes me wonder what we might expect from future templates. I can't help but wonder if we will get to the point where the Office applications begin to function more as frameworks for running third-party applications. We will just have to wait and see.
Brien Posey is a 16-time Microsoft MVP with decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written thousands of articles and contributed to several dozen books on a wide variety of IT topics. Prior to going freelance, Posey was a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the country's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox. In addition to his continued work in IT, Posey has spent the last several years actively training as a commercial scientist-astronaut candidate in preparation to fly on a mission to study polar mesospheric clouds from space. You can follow his spaceflight training on his Web site.