Microsoft launches native integration for Python in Excel

Microsoft launches native integration for Python in Excel

With native Python integration with Excel, users will be able to use the new “PY” function to input Python code directly into Excel cells.

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Microsoft has partnered with programming language repository provider, Anaconda, to allow Python code to run in Excel without any additional setup. The move is designed to help data practitioners use data inside the application for data analytics and machine learning.

“With Python in Excel, you can type Python directly into a cell, the Python calculations run in the Microsoft Cloud, and your results are returned to the worksheet, including plots and visualisations,” Microsoft said in a blog post.

The announcement from Microsoft assumes significance as a majority of enterprise data globally is still stored in Excel sheets and data practitioners often find it difficult to use Python within Excel without adds-ons, or additional setups.

Several attempts have been made to make it easier to use Python code within Microsoft Excel. In 2014, Zoomer Analytics developed Xlwings, a BSD-licensed Python library that connects to Excel and allows Excel spreadsheets and Python applications to interact directly.

In 2017, Continuum Analytics, makers of Anaconda, released Anaconda Fusion, a system for connecting the enterprise-grade version of Anaconda with Microsoft Excel 2016 and higher versions. With this integration, data scientists could expose their work to Excel users with Python code and data available in Jupyter notebooks.   

Other paid add-ons such as PyXLL can also help integrate Python into Excel.

However, with native Python integration with Excel, users will be able to use the new “PY” function to input Python code directly into Excel cells and perform tasks such as data cleaning, predictive analytics, and machine learning due to support from tools such as formulas, PivotTables, and Excel Charts, the company said.

“Using Excel’s built-in connectors and Power Query, users can easily bring external data into Python in Excel workflows,” it added.

Enterprises will be able to make use of Python libraries such as scikit-learn and statsmodels to apply popular machine learning, predictive analytics, and forecasting techniques including regression analysis and time series modeling, Microsoft said.

Python in Excel, which is currently in public preview, is available to users running Beta Channel on Windows, the company said, adding that the feature will first roll out to Excel for Windows, starting with build 16.0.16818.20000, and then to other operating systems.

To use Python in Excel, users will have to join the Microsoft 365 Insider Program.

“While in Preview, Python in Excel will be included with your Microsoft 365 subscription. After the Preview, some functionality will be restricted without a paid license,” the company said.

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