Excel for iPhone update turns photos into editable spreadsheets


Microsoft Excel
One of Microsoft Office's coolest features.
Photo: Microsoft

An update for Microsoft Excel on the iPhone may not sound like the most exciting thing. But the update in question is actually pretty darn neat. That’s regardless of whether you regularly use spreadsheets or just fancy a neat tech demo.

The update lets you easily import spreadsheets by simply snapping a photo with your iPhone. The image you take of a paper-based spreadsheet is then recognized and turned into a fully functioning editable spreadsheet.

Microsoft calls this feature “Insert Data from Picture.” It actually debuted on Android back in March, but has now ported to iOS with the latest update.

It’s a smart use of AI-based Optical Character Recognition (OCR) tech, similar to the scanner apps which turn images of text into editable documents.

To be able to use the feature, you’ll need an Office 365 account. Once you open the Excel for iPhone app, it gives you an “Insert Data from Picture” button which launches your iPhone camera. Users can then snap a picture, crop the area they want to focus on, and then hit “capture.” I haven’t been able to give it a full test run, so I don’t know how good it is at recognizing hand-writing. The demo shared by Microsoft focuses on printed figures.

The feature currently is available only for Excel on iPhone. However, given its time-saving usefulness we expect it won’t be too long before Microsoft rolls this feature out to Apple’s iPads as well as its smartphones.


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