Microsoft Excel is getting a whole lot more customization

Excel on a Laptop
(Image credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft is expanding is spreadsheet software with the addition of a new API which will allow developers to create their own custom data types in Excel.

Countless solutions have been built in Excel using just text and numbers but over the course of its multi-year journey, the software giant has expanded the types of data users can work with natively in its software. This began with the introduction of Microsoft's Stocks and Geography “data types” back in 2018 and these linked data types allow for a single cell in a spreadsheet to contain a live, connected and rich set of information about objects like stocks, currencies, cities and countries.

Last year though, Microsoft expanded on this vision by allowing customers to work with their own data as a data type. As a result, it became possible to automatically connect data from its Power BI business intelligence tool with Excel and this integration made published Power BI data discoverable in Excel as a structured data type.

Now Microsoft is taking linked data types to a whole new level yet again with the introduction of a new JavaScript API in Excel.

Custom data types

With its new JavaScript API in Excel which will be available in preview later this month, Microsoft is making it possible for developers to create their own custom data types.

These new custom data types can contain images, entities, arrays and formatted number values all backed by their own custom data sources. These new Excel data types can also be used as both inputs and outputs.

Now developers will able to organize complex data as objects and present this data to users in more natural ways while still providing easy access to the full information users require for analysis or reporting according to a new blog post from Microsoft.

Excel users can also create their own add-ins or extend previously existing ones to utilize the power of data types. Custom data types can even be shared across an entire organization and add-ins or other solutions can be created that are capable of connecting data types to a company's own service or data.

Microsoft's new Javascript API will be available in public preview when the next version of the Office.JS Preview APIs are deployed near the end of this month. However, to create custom data types, users will need the Office.JS Preview API along with an Insiders Beta build of Excel for Windows or Mac.

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Anthony Spadafora

After working with the TechRadar Pro team for the last several years, Anthony is now the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches and ransomware gangs to the best way to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. When not writing, you can find him tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.