Microsoft Excel gets custom JavaScript Functions and Power BI visualizations

Microsoft is launching a couple of features to Excel today that make the ubiquitous spreadsheet software a bit more powerful. Among the new features is support for Azure Machine Learning and custom JavaScript functions to Excel to extend its capabilities. Excel now also allows Power BI developers to bring the custom visuals they created for Power BI to Excel.

Rob Howard, Microsoft’s Director of Office 365 Ecosystem Marketing, told me that the combination of these new features essentially allows developers to bring their own line-of-service apps to Excel now.

Developers could already write their own complex scripts with Visual Basic for Applications (VBA). There are some advantages to using JavaScript, though, not in the least its popularity and ability to easily connect to third-party services, but also the simple fact that these functions can run on any platform. Microsoft first tested custom functions through the Office Insider Program, and it’s now ready to roll it out to a wider audience.

Thanks to its new support for Azure Machine Learning, Excel users will now also be able to use the machine learning models that their company’s data scientists have developed for them. Building these models still remains the domain of computer science boffins, but with this new feature, a far wider range of users will now be able to consume them. And given that Excel is often the place where many employees engage with a company’s data, bringing these models to the spreadsheet seems like a logical next step.