Microsoft Copilot AI for Microsoft Excel: A Comprehensive Guide

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Since its founding in the 1970s, Microsoft has been at the forefront of technological innovation, and its cloud-powered Microsoft Copilot artificial intelligence (AI) solution is no exception. This digital companion promises to revolutionize how we interact with our devices and applications, particularly Microsoft Excel.

Announced at an event in New York City, the Microsoft Copilot AI chatbot will be available to users across various Microsoft platforms, including their Bing search engine, the Microsoft Edge web browser, the Microsoft 365 productivity suite, and devices running the venerable Windows operating system. The aim is to provide a unified Copilot user experience across all these platforms.

Microsoft 365 Copilot is designed to be your AI assistant in the workplace. It builds upon the capabilities of Bing Chat Enterprise but offers features that set it apart. It ensures enterprise-grade security, privacy, and compliance. What makes the Copilot AI chatbot truly remarkable is its ability to sift through vast amounts of data, including emails, meetings, chats, documents, and web content, to address complex workplace challenges. This integration extends to popular Microsoft 365 apps like Word, PowerPoint, Outlook, Teams, and Excel.

What is Excel Copilot?

What is Excel Copilot

The Purpose of Excel Copilot

Excel Copilot is a transformative AI tool developed by Microsoft to enhance the capabilities of Microsoft Excel. It leverages the power of artificial intelligence to simplify complex tasks, automate repetitive actions, and provide intelligent insights, turning your Excel spreadsheets into more dynamic and interactive tools. Using natural language prompts, you can use Copilot in Microsoft Excel to help analyze and visualize complex data in spreadsheets and pivot tables with the proficiency of a data analyst.

How Microsoft Copilot Integrates With Microsoft Excel

Excel Copilot seamlessly integrates with Microsoft Excel, allowing you to leverage AI-driven features directly within the Excel interface. With just a few clicks, you can transform your dry and boring spreadsheets into something more than a wall of text and numbers. Copilot in Excel helps make you more efficient and your data output more user-friendly. Because of Excel's tight integration with the Microsoft 365 cloud-based ecosystem of apps and services, you can collaborate with peers in your organization with Excel Copilot to analyze, format, and modify data across multiple teams and businesses to derive deeper, more holistic business insights.

Excel Copilot Availability and Compatibility

As of the latest update, Copilot is rolling out first in a free update to Windows 11 at the end of September 2023 and subsequently to Microsoft 365 Copilot for Enterprise customers on November 1. It's designed to work with the latest versions of Microsoft Excel, ensuring compatibility and smooth performance.

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Key Features & Functions of Copilot Excel

Features and Functions of Copilot Excel

Smart Formulas and Functions Assistance

Copilot AI assists users in creating formulas and functions in Excel, making the process more intuitive and less error-prone. This feature is designed to enhance your productivity and data analysis capabilities in Excel. Using natural language prompts inside the spreadsheet, Excel Copilot can suggest relevant formulas based on the data and context. Don't worry if you are a little lost on the definitions of “formula” and “functions” in Excel because Copilot will be your personal Excel power user to help walk you through the creation of powerful formulas and functions.

In an electronic spreadsheet, a formula is a mathematical expression that operates across values found in multiple cells. Formulas are like the Swiss Army knife of Excel. They can do a bunch of cool stuff like doing math problems, spitting out info, changing what's in other cells, checking stuff, and a whole lot more. Formulas are your go-to for basic math like adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing.

Think of functions in Excel as handy little helpers that do the math for you. They're pre-set formulas that carry out specific calculations using the values you give them. For example, the SUM function adds up values in cells, the IF function gives one result if a condition is true and another if it's false, and the VLOOKUP function helps you find things in a table or range by row. Each function has its own set of arguments, which are the values you need to input to get a result. Once you've got the hang of the function you want to use, you only need to type an equal sign (=) in a cell, followed by the function name and the range of cells it applies to.

In addition to helping you write formulas, format your data, and do data analysis, Copilot in Excel will help you analyze and explore your data in a new way: writing Python code. Python is a popular programming language often used to build web apps and analyze data that Microsoft has recently integrated into Excel. But rather than force you to learn Python just to use Excel, with Copilot, no programming experience is required. You just tell Copilot what you want to do with your data in plain English, and Copilot will create the complex Python code for you and pop it right into your Excel grid.

For instance, you can type in “forecast sales for the next four quarters,” and Copilot will create a Python cell with the code to do just that. This opens up a world of advanced analytics possibilities, like forecasting, clustering, optimization, causal models, statistical tests, classification, sampling, and more. Excel Copilot's smart formulas and function assistance capabilities are almost like having a data scientist consulting on the creation of your spreadsheet.

Data Cleaning and Transformation

Excel Copilot can identify inconsistencies, missing values, and other issues in your data. It offers suggestions for cleaning and transforming data, ensuring accuracy and consistency. You can use Copilot in Microsoft Excel to transform your data using the following data-cleaning features:



Trimming extra spaces in text

Excel Copilot can assist you in removing extra spaces in text using the TRIM function

Removing blank cells or rows

You can use the “Go To Special” option to select and remove blank cells or rows

Converting numbers stored as text

Microsoft Excel Copilot can help you convert numbers stored as text into actual numbers using the “Paste Special” option

Deleting duplicate records or cells

The “Remove Duplicates” option allows you to delete duplicate records or cells

Highlighting cells that contain errors

The Copilot AI in Excel can guide you in using the “Conditional Formatting” option to highlight cells that contain errors

Changing the case of text

You can use the LOWER, UPPER, or PROPER functions to change the case of text

Parsing data based on a delimiter

Copilot can help you use the “Text to Columns” option to parse data based on a delimiter

Running spell check on the data

You can quickly run spell check on the data using the F7 keyboard shortcut

Deleting all formatting from the data

Copilot can guide you in using the “Clear Formats” option to delete all formatting from the data

Changing cell references or formats

You can use the “Find and Replace” option to change cell references or formats

Visualization and Chart Generation

Visualization and Chart Generation

With Copilot AI, generating visualizations and charts becomes a breeze. The AI can recommend the best type of chart based on the data, enhancing data representation and interpretation. Here are ten types of data visualization and charts that Excel Copilot can help you create:

  1. Want to see how a variable change affects your data? Just ask Excel Copilot to project the impact and generate a chart. You'll get a stunning visual that makes your findings easy to understand and share.
  2. Charts and PivotTables are great ways to show insights into your data. Excel Copilot can help you create them with just a few clicks. Tell Copilot what kind of data you want to highlight, and it will do the rest.
  3. Data trends can reveal a lot about your data. Excel Copilot can show you how to use the “Conditional Formatting” option to make them stand out. You'll be able to see patterns, outliers, and anomalies in your data at a glance.
  4. A histogram is a type of chart showing the data distribution. You can easily use the “Histogram” option to create one with Excel Copilot. It can also help you customize the histogram to suit your needs.
  5. A Pareto chart is a type of chart that shows the relative frequency of occurrences of different categories. You can use it to identify the most significant factors in your data. Using the “Pareto Chart” option in Excel Copilot greatly simplifies converting data into this type of chart.
  6. A box and whisker plot is a type of chart that shows the distribution of data. You can use it to compare different groups of data and see their range, median, and outliers. In Excel Copilot, you can use the “Box and Whisker Plot” prompts to quickly create one of these charts based on your data.
  7. A scatter plot is a chart showing the relationship between two variables. You can use it to see how they correlate and if there is any trend or pattern. Excel Copilot prompts can guide you in creating a scatter plot.
  8. A bubble chart is a type of chart that shows the relationship between three variables. You can use it to see how they interact and affect each other. You can use the “Bubble Chart” prompt in Excel Copilot to create these charts quickly.
  9. A waterfall chart is a type of chart that shows how an initial value is affected by a series of intermediate positive or negative values. You can use it to see the cumulative effect of different factors on your data. Excel Copilot comes with leading prompts to help you create a waterfall chart.
  10. A sunburst chart is a type of chart that shows hierarchical data. You can use it to see the proportion of each level and how they relate to each other. It sounds complex, but using the built-in “Sunburst Chart” prompt in Excel Copilot is easy.

Error Detection and Correction

One of the standout features of Excel Copilot is its ability to detect errors in spreadsheets. Whether it's a formula error, data inconsistency, or any other issue, Copilot AI can identify and suggest corrections. Some examples of ways these features help with error detection and correction in your data include:

  • Python Libraries: As previously discussed, Excel Copilot allows users to perform advanced analytics using Python, the most popular programming language for data science. You can use Python libraries like “pandas,” “matplotlib,” and “scikit-learn” to handle data cleaning, visualization, and machine learning tasks. These libraries have built-in functions that can help you find and fix errors in your data.
  • Iterative Problem Solving: Copilot for Excel can remember the context of previous queries and results, allowing users to perform data analysis in an iterative fashion. This way, you can catch any mistakes and correct them easily.
  • Natural Language Processing: Although you can use Python if you want, programming skills are not required in Excel Copilot. You can use natural language processing to understand user queries and generate appropriate responses. This could help detect errors in the user's queries and provide correct responses.

Traditional Excel vs. Excel Copilot

Traditional Excel vs. Excel Copilot

Office workers have relied on Microsoft Excel for decades. Over the years, Excel has gone from a run-of-the-mill spreadsheet program to a crucial data visualization tool with features such as:




Automatically run calculations over and over again by programming commonly used formulas.


Budget plans, forecasts, expense tracking, financial reports, loan calculators, and more can be managed using Excel.


Represent data visually through pie charts, scatter charts, line charts, bar charts, area charts, column charts, etc.

Data Analysis and Interpretation

Analyze relatively large datasets in pivot tables and formulas.

Data Organizing and Restructuring

Sort, filter, and structure data for better understanding.

Goal Seek Analysis

Tool to answer the question: “What should be the value of the input to attain the given output?”

Interactive Graphs and Dashboards

Excel can be used to visually express data in interactive graphs and dashboards.

While traditional Excel offers a plethora of features, Excel Copilot takes it a notch higher by adding AI-driven capabilities. Copilot for Excel enhances the traditional Excel experience by providing intuitive tools and features that assist users in analyzing, understanding, and visualizing their data with greater ease and efficiency.

How Does Excel Copilot Compare with Traditional Excel Usage?

Traditional Excel relies heavily on manual input for functions, formulas, and data analysis. In contrast, Excel Copilot provides automated suggestions, error detections, and data insights, reducing manual effort and enhancing productivity. Using natural language to chat with Copilot, you can analyze, understand, and visualize your data much faster and with better accuracy than humanly possible. Copilot offers features that empower you to focus on what matters in your data. You can now use Excel Copilot to highlight, filter, and sort data with ease with a quick chat and without the trial and error-prone frustrations of traditional Excel that some users found daunting.

Before Copilot was integrated with Microsoft Excel, using complex formulas in spreadsheets required a person to know a bit of algebra to get the most out of Excel. Data analyses could be performed quickly, but accuracy required a lot of forethought and more than a passing knowledge of math to get things right. However, Copilot for Excel provides formula column suggestions for complex calculations, making it easier to perform advanced data analysis by describing the formula in a natural language chat prompt.

Time and Efficiency Gains with Copilot AI and Excel

With Copilot AI, users can expect significant time savings. Tasks like data cleaning, formula application, and chart generation can be done more quickly, allowing users to focus on data interpretation and decision-making. As the name suggests, Excel Copilot is designed to work alongside you as a virtual assistant for three key aspects of using Excel:

  1. Creating: Excel Copilot helps you create data sets and charts. For example, the cloud-powered artificial intelligence of Copilot can quickly and efficiently find and fill in whatever data you need.
  2. Editing: As previously mentioned, a lot of time can be wasted in Excel with trial and error, but Copilot assists in editing and refining data with robotic accuracy.
  3. Understanding: Analysis is often stressful when you have large datasets and tight deadlines. Excel Copilot helps you simplify and comprehend complex datasets quickly to make your life easier.

Potential Cost Savings with Copilot AI and Excel

Businesses can achieve cost savings with Excel Copilot in Microsoft 365 in the following ways:

  1. Efficiency: The AI assistant can automate repetitive tasks, reducing the time employees spend on these tasks and allowing them to focus on more complex and strategic tasks.
  2. Accuracy: The AI assistant can help reduce errors in data entry and analysis, which can lead to more accurate business decisions and strategies.
  3. Training: The AI assistant can serve as a training tool for employees who are not familiar with Excel, reducing the need for extensive training programs.
  4. Data Analysis: The AI assistant can help businesses analyze large amounts of data quickly and accurately, providing valuable insights that can lead to cost savings.
  5. Productivity: By automating tasks and providing quick answers to questions, the AI assistant can help increase overall productivity, which can lead to cost savings in the long run.
  6. Support Costs: The AI assistant can reduce the need for IT support for Excel-related issues and provide immediate assistance and solutions.

Tips and Tricks for Maximizing Excel Copilot

Tips and Tricks for Maximizing Excel Copilot

Smart Formula Suggestions

Always review the formula suggestions provided by Copilot AI. These suggestions are based on the context and can greatly simplify complex calculations.

Data Cleaning Wizardry

Regularly use the data cleaning feature to ensure data accuracy. This improves data quality and enhances the performance of other AI-driven features.

Visualizations Made Easy

Experiment with different visualization suggestions provided by Copilot. This can lead to better data representation and more insightful analysis.

Error Detection and Correction

Regularly review the error suggestions and make necessary corrections. This ensures that your spreadsheets remain accurate and reliable.

Copilot for Excel Pricing and Licensing

Microsoft Excel Copilot is a premium feature. Microsoft 365 Copilot available for all customers of Microsoft 365 Business Standard, Business Premium, E3, and E5 licenses for an additional $30 per user per month.


Still have questions about Excel Copilot? The following are commonly asked questions about the software:

How to Use Copilot in Excel

Using the Copilot AI in Excel is straightforward. Copilot is integrated into Excel but will only be available once you have data in your Excel worksheet before it will work. Once you have data in your spreadsheet's cells, click on the Copilot icon in your Excel app's ribbon at the top of the screen. The Copilot window will pop in from the right side of the screen (by default), so you can start entering your prompts to access the AI-driven features directly from the Excel interface.

How to Install Copilot in Excel

Excel Copilot is delivered from Microsoft Azure cloud infrastructure. To access Copilot, users should have a Microsoft 365 E3 or E5 license and an Azure Active Directory account. Each of the Microsoft 365 users in your organization should be on the Current Channel for Microsoft 365 apps to access Copilot in their Excel desktop app. Because all the complex processing of artificial intelligence is performed and delivered from the Microsoft cloud, users in your organization will notice Copilot performance is reliant on network speed. It is recommended to set quality of service (QoS) on corporate networks to prioritize Copilot traffic.

How to Enable Copilot in Excel

Once installed, IT admins can enable or disable Copilot features from the Excel settings in the Microsoft 365 admin center.

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