Over the last few years, Microsoft is working on the concept of adding data types to Excel. The ability to retrieve geographical and real-time inventory data from the cloud. Excel now features more than 100 of these data forms that can flow through a spreadsheet, thanks to its collaboration with Wolfram. But you’re not going to be confined for a long time to only these pre-built data forms. Soon, Excel will let you put in your own types of data as well.
That means you can have a “customer” data form that can carry rich customer data into Excel from a third-party service. The conduit for this is either Power BI, which now allows Excel to pull any data you previously published there, or the Power Query function in Excel from Microsoft, which allows you to link to a broad range of data sources, including popular databases such as SQL Server, MySQL, and PostgreSQL, as well as third-party services such as Teradata and Facebook.
“The Excel grid has been flat up to this point … it’s two-dimensional,” Microsoft’s Excel product manager, Brian Jones, wrote in today’s announcement. You can layout numbers, text, and formulas in the versatile grid, and with those capabilities, people have created incredible stuff. However, not all knowledge is flat, and pushing data into the 2D structure has its limits. We’ve introduced a 3rd dimension to what you can create with Excel using Data Types. Any cell can now contain a rich set of structured data… in just a single cell.”
The promise here is that this will make Excel more versatile, and I’m pretty confident that a lot of businesses will adopt these capabilities. These businesses are not likely to migrate to Air-Table or similar Excel-like tools anytime soon, but they have data processing needs that are only growing now that each organization collects more data than it knows what to do with it. This is also a feature that none of Excel’s rivals are currently offering, including Google Sheets.