6. Miscellaneous Feature Updates

Microsoft's commitment to using AI in its Office apps (what it calls Intellisense) to enrich the user's experience and boost productivity is evident in three of Excel 2016's updates: Smart Lookup on the Review tab, Accessibility on the Status bar, and Ideas on the Home tab.

Smart Lookup

Smart Lookup makes it really easy to explore and get information about almost any subject or topic directly referred in an entry of your worksheet. Simply position the cell cursor in the cell with the entry you want to know more about before clicking Review-->Smart Lookup. Excel then opens a Smart Lookup task pane containing Wikipedia and Web search articles pertaining to that entry. (If you want a dictionary definition for the entry, you simply click the Define button in the task pane.) Fig. 6-1 in the AI Updates gallery above shows the Smart Lookup task pane after  clicking Review-->Smart Lookup when  cell C1 containing the entry, Standard Chinese, is current. The Smart Lookup task pane then opens with several articles from Wikipedia, Bing Image Search, and Web Search that you can read and explore.


The new Accessibility indicator that automatically appears on the left side of the Status bar when you create or edit a worksheet. When you begin to build a new worksheet, the indicator reads, Accessibility: Good to Go. As you add items to the worksheet, the indicator changes to Accessibility: Investigate. You can then check what items in the sheet might prove challenging for those with visual disabilities to comprehend and ways to make the sheet more accessible by clicking the Accessibility: Investigate indicator. Excel then opens an Accessibility Checker task pane (as shown in Fig. 6-2 in the AI Updates gallery above) that lists any issues that such users might find problematic. As you can see in Fig. 6-3, the accessibility issues identified in the worksheet include a lack of alternate text that describes the two embedded pictures (the fish and the water behind it) and the default Sheet tab name (Sheet1) that lacks any description of its contents.


The Ideas feature enables you to quickly preview visual representations of your Excel data. Simply select a cell in a data table or data list open in your worksheet prior to clicking the Ideas button on the Home tab. Excel then analyzes patterns and trends in the data and opens an Ideas task pane containing suggested types of charts depicting them (see Fig. 6-3 in the AI Updates gallery above). To embed one of the suggested charts in your worksheet, click Insert Chart under its preview in the Ideas task pane.