March Office Excel Online Update Does a Number on Currencies

The March update brings new number-formatting options and a way to make data from pivot tables a little more digestible.

Microsoft Excel Online Update

Microsoft wants to make it easier for users to make sense of things, well dollars and cents, in the March 2016 update for Excel Online, the browser-based version of the company's venerable spreadsheet software. The update includes new options that allow users to correctly and uniformly format dates, times, percentages, fractions and currencies while they work with data in Excel.

"We know that currency formats are very common in spreadsheets, so we have made it easier for you to find the most common currency formats for your data," wrote Microsoft's Excel team in a blog post. "When you click the $ sign, under the Number Format section of the Home tab, you will find a list of the most common currencies with access to more accounting formats."

The new functionality appears in the Number Format drop down under the Home main menu item. Alternately, users can right-click on a cell to bring up the formatting dialog box.

Also new are features that help users quickly summarize and group pivot table data. The Summarize Value By and Show Value As tabs allow users to select values they want to summarize and change the calculations used to generate their summaries. A new search capability allows users to quickly filter pivot table data, eliminating the need to scroll through a list of potentially hundreds or thousands of values to narrow down the correct data.

In addition to URLs, the Hyperlink function now supports email addresses and locations within the Excel document itself. Again, the expanded options appear in Excel's main menus (under the Insert item) or by right clicking on a cell. To help users pick up where they last left off, Excel Online takes users to the same sheet they last viewed after they saved their work.

Microsoft also hinted that customers of the on-premises version of Excel Online will soon get new updates in parallel with the cloud-based product. Organizations that integrate their SharePoint deployments with the upcoming release of Office Online Server will gain access to the latest version of the software.

While Excel may be one of the software giant's oldest Office productivity offerings, Microsoft has been working to help it keep up with these cloud-enabled times.

Today, the company switched on the ability to analyze Power BI data in Excel. Conversely, Power BI users can now "pin from Excel," enabling the cloud-powered business intelligence and analytics platform to pull data directly from Excel on the desktop.

Last week, Microsoft announced new updates to the Power Pivot data mash-up tool for Excel 2016. They include the ability to save the relationship diagram view as an image file and new, faster methods of editing table relationships.

Last month, the company revealed six new time-saving Excel functions that simplify common calculations and help eliminate duplicate work. Users can now use TEXTJOIN and CONCAT to combine text from ranges of cells without typing up a storm of commas or other delimiters to separate each item. The new IFS and SWITCH functions provide an alternative to nested IF functions while MAXIFS and MINIFS allow users to fine-tune their maximum and minimum value calculations.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...