Microsoft has added a smart “autofill” feature to the customer preview edition of Exel 2013, which was released Monday, July 16.
Excel 2013 is able to parse a table for like types of data and then autofill the values in the remaining columns. In the canned example provided with the preview version that I looked at in my review, the table was a list of email addresses. The empty column was a name field. Handily enough, the email addresses were in the form of firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can see my slide show of other Office 365/2013 customer preview features here.
After I typed in the first two first names, Excel found the rest of the first names and offered to fill them in for me.
While it’s true that this canned demo was designed to provide a nearly magical example of how Excel 2013 autofill works, there are a couple of points I should make.
The first is that I didn’t have to do anything to invoke the autofill function. Unlike well-established features like creating a list of sequential numbers--for example, by first entering 1, 2, 3, then selecting the cells, using the corner anchor drag to select a further range of cells and then letting Excel fill in the rest of the numbers--I didn’t have to invoke any Excel menus to start the autofill action. Microsoft has added processing capability to Excel 2013 so that it can do some basic data analysis to provide this convenience feature.
The second point I should make is that on several attempts, I was unable to provoke the autofill response. I have not yet ascertained why this happened, but it appears to have something to do with using the virtual on-screen touch keyboard. Occasionally, when I attempted the autofill example while using the virtual, on-screen touch keyboard, the autofill function did not kick off. If I toggled the keyboard into full width mode or used the physical keyboard, then the autofill function activated.
Most times, the autofill worked, so I’m willing to chalk my sometimes intermittent problems to stray finger taps on the virtual keyboard.
For IT pros who spend time crunching data in Excel, the autofill function will likely be a welcome find when the product goes into production at an as yet unspecified date.