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Microsoft Starting To Roll Out New Excel Connected Data Types

Microsoft on Thursday announced some Excel and Power BI enhancements that add "connected data types" on top of the standard strings and numbers options.

Connected data types give access to a lot of related information that can be kept up to date within an Excel spreadsheet. Microsoft earlier previewed new "Geography" and "Stock History" connected data types that add access to things like demographic information in countries and high-and-low values for stocks, all accessible via a single Excel Worksheet cell. 

Organization Data Type at GA
This week, a Microsoft Tech Community post announced the "general availability" commercial release of the "Organization" data type for Excel via Microsoft's Power BI business intelligence solution. It lets users define specific organizational data from Power BI as a data type for use in Excel.

"Once cells have been converted into linked data types, you can then extract additional information to work within your spreadsheets," explained Brian Jones, group program manager for Excel, in the Thursday announcement on Organization data types. "For example, if you enter a product code or name, you'll see additional information like a description, price, and available inventory all within the card view."

The Organization data type in Excel via Power BI is currently available to organizations having Office 365 or Microsoft 365 subscriptions and getting "current channel" feature update distributions. They'll also need to have Power BI Pro subscriptions (just available with the English version for now).

The Organization data type works with Excel for Windows systems right now, but Microsoft plans to add it to Excel for Mac and Excel for the Web at some future time.

Power Query Custom Data Types
In addition, Microsoft is starting to roll out Power Query data types for use in Excel, likely at the preview stage (it's unclear), per another Microsoft Tech Community announcement.

To create these data types, Power Query users import a data set, such as from table data. They next create a custom data type, which can include all of the table's data, if wanted. This created data type can then be used for further analysis in Excel.

Microsoft included a very good in-depth demo on how Power Query custom data types are created, and how they can get used, in the announcement.

Wolfram Alpha Data Types Preview
Microsoft also worked with the Wolfram Alpha organization to add data types in Excel. The additional data types are just available now in preview form for Microsoft 365 Personal or Family subscribers that are part of the Office Insiders Program.

These users have access to data types for Chemistry, Element, Space, Movie, Food and more, on top of Stocks and Geography. The list will be expanding as Microsoft is planning to deliver previews of "over 100 new data types that will pull rich information from Wolfram Alpha's online service into Excel," per the announcement.

Microsoft also plans to deliver so-called "smart templates," which appear to be a guided way to pull such information together. The templates will let people do things like "track their nutritional information, research potential colleges, monitor stocks, learn chemistry, and much more," the announcement explained.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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