Microsoft is making some very welcome changes to Excel on the web this month

Although many consider Microsoft Excel to be a relatively traditional tool, it is used by practically every organization around the world to visualize data and apply calculations because of its mature toolset and its relative ease-of-use for people who are familiar with the application. Microsoft also offers a web version of Excel that you can use on the on-the-go. The company regularly updates it with new features, and now, it plans to bring a couple of welcome capabilities to Excel on the web.

A spreadsheet open in Microsoft Excel with formula bar in focus

Currently, if you are writing a calculation in the formula bar, you get a sort of a helper tooltip that lists the arguments of the function that you are using. You can click on the arguments or function name to jump to the dedicated "Help" topic on the right side of your window. A screenshot of the current implementation can be seen above.

To make the experience more streamlined and to minimize errors and lookups, Microsoft is introducing an "Argument Assistance" card UI that will automatically become visible while you are writing a formula. This will provide you the description of the formula and its associated arguments as well as supporting examples.

The idea is to offer you this view directly without having to open external resources, as is the case in the current implementation. We don't have visibility over what this card UI will actually look like, but the good news is that even if you don't like it or if it takes up too much of your window space, you can collapse the card and just revert to the current tooltip implementation. This preference will be saved as well.

Another minor but useful change that Microsoft is making to the Excel formula bar is that it is becoming multi-line in the sense that you will be able to manually resize it according to your liking. This will be especially useful when you are writing a lengthy formula and want to format and indent it for better readability in the formula bar. This capability is already available in the desktop version of Excel.

Both these changes will become generally available during the month of March, but a hard release date isn't listed on the Microsoft 365 Roadmap yet. The Argument Assistance card UI currently lists web as the targeted release platform only but it will be interesting to see if it makes its way over to the desktop version of Excel sometime in the near future too.

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