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Automating Excel tasks to come to Windows and Mac

Not just for the web anymore: Microsoft Office Scripts coming for the macro-managers among us

Users running Excel on either Windows or Mac PCs will soon be able to automate many of the now-manual tasks in their spreadsheet software, something that currently is only available to those using the web application.

According to new entries in the Microsoft 365 roadmap, starting in October, users will be able create, edit, and run Office Scripts to automate these tasks using the Code Editor and All Scripts taskplane.

As with any software, the goal of automating tasks in Excel is to improve productivity, not only for the individual user but for others throughout the Microsoft 365 world. Theoretically, the automation done by one user can be used by others, though everyone has their preferred way of doing things.

Users can record what they've done with Action Recorder, which creates a TypeScript language script that can be run again whenever it's needed. Scripts created and edited with the Code Editor can then be shared across the organization, enabling coworkers to automate their workflows, according to a Microsoft online document about Office Scripts.

"Scripts allow you to record and replay your Excel actions on different workbooks and worksheets," according to Microsoft. "If you find yourself doing the same things over and over again, you can turn all that work into an easy-to-run Office Script. Run your script with a button-press in Excel or combine it with Power Automate to streamline your entire workflow."

Enabling Office Scripts for Excel in Windows and Mac systems is one of a number of efforts that Microsoft is pushing in the hopes of expanding the reach and utility of the spreadsheet software, which has more than 750 million users.

Microsoft is also allowing users to easily insert an image from the Data tab into the Excel cells, giving them another way of presenting data, and next month will enable users to use @mentions in the comments section to create, assign, and track tasks within their workbooks.

All this comes days after Microsoft announced the public preview of Excel Live support in the vendor's Teams collaboration platform.

This summer, Microsoft introduced the idea of bringing Excel into the Teams universe, part of a larger strategy to add functions to Teams to enable greater collaboration in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic pushing most workers out of the office for more than a year and into their homes or other remote sites.

The sudden switch to remote work fueled ushered in a much larger hybrid workforce, which widens the net for Microsoft.

In 2021, Microsoft introduced PowerPoint Live, bringing the presentation software to Teams meetings, followed by the announcement this year at Microsoft Build of the public preview of Live Share, which focused on developers hoping to use third-party apps and participants to watch, edit, and create collaboratively in Teams.

"Until now, sharing spreadsheets within a Teams meeting has been a fairly one-sided experience," Meenakshi Bhatia-Naren, principal product manager at Microsoft, wrote in a blog post at the time. "You share a file, and everyone else watches while you make the updates. But what if your group could use that meeting time to get the work done together?"

Being able to do this will enable Teams participants to work together on Excel workbooks in real time, Bhatia-Naren wrote.

Microsoft announced the public preview of Excel Live in Teams last week. ®

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