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JavaScript Functions are coming to Microsoft Excel among other features

Today at Microsoft's Ignite 2017 conference, the company announced some improvements to Excel during the keynote. They were kind of glossed over, but during a session later on in the day, it expanded on what the plans are.

Perhaps the most interesting is JavaScript Custom Functions. Obviously written in JavaScript - rather than the classic Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) - they're meant to allow developers to write once and run anywhere. These functions will run on all platforms, such as Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android.

And they will be written in Visual Studio, so don't expect the new feature to be made available in the VBA code editor that's built into Office apps on Windows and has been for years. I asked why this is, and was told that the company would rather implement modern development tools, rather than rev an older tool.

It was made very clear that this is not a forward-looking statement; in other words, we are not meant to determine from that that VBA support is being removed or deprecated. JavaScript Custom Functions will be made available as a developer preview to Office Insiders next month.

Next up is new data types in the spreadsheet application. Powered by the cloud, the feature will attempt to recognize what types of data you're trying to input. For example, if you make a list of companies, Excel will recognize that and will allow you to add stock ticker symbols, stock prices, and more, or if you make a list of towns, you can use their populations.

And you won't even have to show these in the spreadsheet to use them in a function. For example, if A1 is 'Microsoft' and A2 is 'Seattle', you could use something like A1.MarketCap/A2.Population to figure out how much the company is worth to each resident, even if there are no 'Market Cap' or 'Population' columns.

The new data types will be coming next year.

Finally, Microsoft is adding Insights to Excel. This does exactly what you'd expect, allowing you to highlight areas of your worksheet and find out more information.

Also powered by the cloud, the company promises that it's not capturing the data that you're sending back, although it is collecting anonymous telemetry data, as you'd expect. Insights will be available by the end of the year.

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