Microsoft just announced Excel Labs, “an add-in that allows the Excel team to release experimental Excel features and gather customer feedback about them.”
The goal of Excel Labs is to explore, experiment, and gather feedback on features that might or might not evolve into fully supported features in Excel.
The most attention-grabbing detail in Microsoft’s announcement is a new LABS.GENERATIVEAI function for Excel.
This new function allows you to send prompts from the Excel grid to a generative AI model, and then return the results back to your worksheet.
Note that this experimental add-in is different from Microsoft 365 Copilot announced earlier this year. Instead, Microsoft says it’s a “place for you to play and experiment with generative AI today.”
With the LABS.GENERATIVEAI function, you can send simple or complex prompts to the model for data analysis, processing, and generating a response based on a sample, among other functions.
Additionally, this feature allows you to reference cells from your workbook and can be called from any Excel cell or named formula within the workbook.
Examples of ways you might use LABS.GENERATIVEAI include:
- Analyze public information. Ask a model to summarize a complicated topic, such as: =LABS.GENERATIVEAI(“Explain generative AI in a sentence.”)
- Return creative content. Ask a model to create content about a particular subject, such as: =LABS.GENERATIVEAI(“Write a poem about Excel.”)
- Process data and define the format. Ask a model to return publicly available data and tell it how to format the information. Set the temperature value to 0 in the function to return consistent responses from the model, for example: =LABS.GENERATIVEAI(“Convert these airport codes into a comma-separated list of cities. The codes: LAX, HND, LHR, JNB.”, 0)
This function uses generative AI technology from OpenAI.
To use the LABS.GENERATIVEAI function, you must register an OpenAI account and generate a unique API key.
Installing the Excel Labs Add-in
To try Excel Lab and the new function for yourself, install the Excel Labs add-in from the Office Store.
- Open Excel.
- Click Insert > Get Add-ins.
- In the Office Add-ins box, browse for the add-in you want, or search for an add-in by using the Search box.
After the add-in is installed or updated, select the Excel Labs button in the Home tab. This will open the Excel Lab’s feature gallery page where you can choose which feature you want to use. To get back to the feature gallery at any time, select the overflow menu in the navigation bar.
If you are unable to locate the add-in by searching for “Excel Labs” in the Office Store, it is possible that your Office version does not meet the minimum system requirements.
Excel Labs works in Excel for Desktop, Mac, and on the web without installing any additional software.
- Advanced Formula Environment is becoming Excel Labs, a Microsoft Garage Project!
- Microsoft Excel Community
- 7 Ways to Use ChatGPT in Google Sheets
Also announced for Excel Labs: Advanced formula environment
Advanced formula environment makes it easy to create, edit, and reuse formulas and named LAMBDA functions.
While Excel Name Manager lets you name and reuse any formula, including functions defined with LAMBDA, the interface makes it difficult to author these formulas. Common features that make programming easier are missing, such as immediate inline errors and syntax highlighting. Advanced formula environment fills this gap. It’s an interface for the Excel Name Manager that is designed for formula authoring.
Using the advanced formula environment, you can:
- Write formulas using an editor that supports inline errors, IntelliSense, comments, and more.
- Indent formulas, making them easier to read.
- Edit modules of named formulas using a single code editor.
- Quickly reuse LAMBDA formulas by importing them from GitHub gists, or by copying them for other workbooks.