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Data / Python / Software Development

Microsoft Puts Python in Excel

The new integration of the popular programming language into Excel is now in public preview in Microsoft's Insiders Beta Channel.
Aug 25th, 2023 9:21am by
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With Python being used increasingly for data projects, Microsoft has decided to enable the use of Python in its popular Excel spreadsheet, to the delight of Pythonistas.

Microsoft has released Python in Excel as a public preview to its Insiders Beta Channel, so it is still early days for the technology. But the company has promised to roll out updates on: improved editing experiences (such as autocomplete and syntax highlighting), default repairs, enhanced error behaviors, help and documentation and more, said Stefan Kinnestrand, a general manager of product marketing/management at Microsoft, in a company blog post.

With Python in Excel, users can integrate Python and Excel analytics within the same Excel grid for uninterrupted workflow.

“Python in Excel combines Python’s powerful data analysis and visualization libraries with Excel’s features you know and love,” Kinnestrand wrote. “You can manipulate and explore data in Excel using Python plots and libraries, and then use Excel’s formulas, charts and PivotTables to further refine your insights.”


To help with this integration, Microsoft is partnering with Anaconda, a leading enterprise-grade Python repository used by tens of millions of data practitioners worldwide. Python in Excel, according to Microsoft, leverages Anaconda Distribution for Python running in Azure, which includes the most popular Python libraries, such as pandas for data manipulation, statsmodels for advanced statistical modeling, and Matplotlib and seaborn for data visualization.

“Python has become the lingua franca and Swiss Army Knife of working with data, and it’s the de facto language of data science and machine learning,” said Andrew Brust, CEO of Blue Badge Insights, a data consultancy.

“It’s present in Microsoft Fabric, Azure Synapse Analytics, Azure Machine Learning, Azure Databricks, Visual Studio, VS Code, SQL Server and Power BI. And since Microsoft and Anaconda have collaborated around many of these integrations, doing so in the Excel case was almost a foregone conclusion.”

Roll Out

Microsoft said it is gradually rolling out Python in Excel to public preview for those in the Microsoft 365 Insiders program Beta Channel. The new feature will roll out to Excel for Windows first, starting with build 16818, and then to the other platforms at a later date.

However, the feature will not be free for long. While in preview, Python in Excel will be included with a Microsoft 365 subscription. After the preview, some functionality will be restricted without a paid license, Kinnestrand said.

“Python developers are very oriented toward working with DataFrames, a structure for storing, manipulating, visualizing,   and building machine learning models with tabular data sets,” Brust said. “Arguably, any Excel sheet, or even a range of cells within one, can be thought of as a DataFrame, making for a natural integration point between Excel and Python.”

To use Python in Excel, you must join the Microsoft 365 Insider Program and choose the Beta Channel Insider level to get the latest builds of the Excel application.

Then, Kinnestrand said, once you’ve installed the latest Insider build of Excel, open a blank workbook, and take the following steps.

  1. Select Formulas in the ribbon.
  2. Select Insert Python.
  3. Select the Try Preview button in the dialog that appears.

What They’re Saying

Guido van Rossum, Python creator and a current Microsoft distinguished engineer,  gave his blessing to the project. In fact, he helped develop the finished product.

“Yeah, so I helped the Excel team with this. Excited that it’s out!” he tweeted.

Meanwhile, Microsoft added comments from some of its customers about Python in Excel.

“KPMG and Microsoft are making significant investments to deliver advanced cloud-based tax technologies,” said Tejas Varia, principal, tax data and analytics at KPMG, the global professional services network.

“At KPMG, we’re excited about the impact Python in Excel will have for our tax clients. Backed by the data and security promises enabled by the Microsoft cloud, Python has the potential to enhance the Excel experience for advanced analytics while providing companies with transparency, simplicity and deeper insights into their financials.”

Rebecca Olson, senior portfolio director at McGraw Hill, offered her observation about Python in Excel’s advantages. “McGraw Hill’s ethos is education for all, and our partnership with Microsoft has helped improve student access to Excel tools, building career readiness,” she said.

“Python is one of the most in-demand skills we’re hearing from colleges and universities, and we’re thrilled that the Excel and Python pairing will provide educators and students with a powerful new gateway to move faster with analytics, enable greater collaboration and learning, and ultimately bridge students to even brighter futures.”

Users can do advanced data analysis in the Excel environment by accessing Python directly from the Excel ribbon. No setup or installation is required. Using Excel’s built-in connectors and Power Query, you can easily bring external data into Python in Excel workflows.

“The precedent for this integration was set a long time ago when MATLAB — the legacy favorite language of serious ‘quants’ building financial and other math models — was integrated with Excel,” Brust said.

“While MATLAB is still commonly used in certain domains, the combination of Python and various libraries like Pandas and NumPy is essentially heir to its throne. Similarly, Excel’s 30-year-old implementation of [Visual Basic for Applications] has grown long in the tooth and its users have been in need of a more modern, cross-platform language for a very long time.”

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