In the future, the Python programming language can also be used in the spreadsheet program Excel. Microsoft has released a first public preview in which it is possible to combine Python and Excel analysis in the same workbook. Those interested can find the preview in the Microsoft 365 Insiders Program in the Beta Channel for Excel for Windows.
In a blog post, Stefan Kinnestrand, who is responsible for the Modern Work department at Microsoft, calls the integration of Python a “significant further development for analytical skills”. It’s true that there has long been the option of bringing Excel and Python together with add-ons. However, Microsoft’s approach should be much easier to use.
Cloud instead of local solution
Python code can be entered directly into a cell. However, the calculations do not take place locally on the computer, but in the Microsoft cloud. From there, the results are sent back to the worksheet complete with charts and visualizations. Why Microsoft chose this path is not explained.
Microsoft is working with the data science platform Anaconda for the cloud solution. The company provided popular Python libraries in Excel, including Matplotlib and Seaborn for data visualization, through the Anaconda Python distribution and Azure.
How to proceed now
Guido van Rossum, who helped develop Python and has worked at Microsoft for three years, said in a statement that “both communities will find interesting new applications through this collaboration that expand the capabilities of both partners.” Commentators also see this step as Microsoft’s reaction to the fact that data analysts who work with large databases have sometimes turned their backs on Excel in the past and carry out their work with Python.
Microsoft announced further improvements and further developments of the Python integration in Excel for the finished version. Improved editing options such as auto-completion and syntax highlighting and improved error behavior are planned. Microsoft also wants to tighten the current limits for data size and computing power. These should prevent misuse, but on the other hand not be too rigid.
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