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Google brings AI to pivot tables with Sheets update

Googles Sheets spreadsheet application gained a number of new features aimed at making pivot tables, a powerful data analysis tool, more accessible. Users will be able to get recommendations from Sheets Explore tab that aim to answer questions about the data fed into the program by spitting out a pivot table, which absorbs multiple pieces of data and outputs relevant answers. In addition, the app will automatically suggest different pivot table setups when users go to create one inside a spreadsheet. Pivot tables are one of the key tools in spreadsheet users arsenals. They make it possible to quickly slice and dice data to garner important insights. For example, someone could create a pivot table that takes a spreadsheet full of sales transactions and outputs how much revenue is attributable to each salesperson. Actually setting that up, however, can be difficult, especially for people who arent experienced in the ways of manipulating spreadsheets. Google hopes that these features will help make it more accessible for people who dont have PhDs in spreadsheet manipulation to use the same features that their power user friends are already familiar with. Whats more, these new capabilities also provide novice users with a pivot table foundation they can build on going forward to meet particular use cases. In addition, these updates show Googles commitment to upgrading its productivity suite to serve enterprise users who are committed to Microsoft Excel. Beri Lee, a product manager for Google Sheets, said that the company is committed to adding features to sheets so that all of its users will be able to maintain their key workflows. Power users are getting some love in the pivot table department, with the ability to manually rename headings, which were previously impossible to change and automatically generated. Its also possible for them to create custom groupings of pivot table data for further analysis. Sheets also gained a new formula autocompletion feature that kicks in when people start typing a function and provides them with an automatically populated list of possible formulas, like sums and averages at the end of a row of numbers. People who are trying to import fixed-width files (that is, text files with columns that arent separated by tabs, commas, or any other delimiter) will be able to have Google automatically separate that data into columns and rows for further analysis. Now, all of these intelligent features are great in theory, but if theyre anything like Googles existing AI-driven analysis features, they wont always work perfectly. In that case, users will be stuck scratching their heads and trying to suss out the correct next move, as they were before. (This isnt a Google-only problem, though: Microsoft Excels automatic chart and pivot table creation tools are inconsistent in their suggestions.)

Latest Google Sheets release helps automate pivot table creation

The spreadsheet gurus in your organization know how to use pivot tables to pull meaningful insight out of a morass of numbers. It has been what separated those folks from the rest of us, but Google is out to democratize the pivot table in the latest version of Google Sheets announced today. Google is achieving this by adding some artificial intelligence under the hood. The new features build on the Explore feature the company added last year. The idea here is to begin bringing automation to bear on the data pile to help surface meaningful insights. Todays feature add machine learning to the pivot tables to achieve a couple of major breakthroughs. For starters, instead of manually creating a pivot table to bring order to your data set, Google Sheets can suggest a pivot table based on the data you have in Google Sheets for you automatically. No more begging at the gurus door for the spreadsheet mortals among us. This puts them within reach of just about anyone. Gif: GoogleTheres also a natural language querying interface in the Explore pane, so you can ask questions in plain English (or your language of choice eventually; it currently only supports English) and the applications can find the data in the pivot table for you. You no longer have to go hunting for the data. You  can ask a questions, and get an answer (assuming its there to be found, of course). For those you who are old school and want to create your pivot tables from scratch, Google has some love for you too. It uses the same intelligence it provides for mere mortals to create pivot tables to make suggestions to help you too. Its not all about intelligence though, you know. You want your pivot table interface to look good too and Google has updated the Pivot Table UI including customizable headings, rows and columns. Google isnt limiting the intelligence to pivot tables either. Its trying to add it across the entire spreadsheet experience, so you if you are entering data, it could pop up suggestions about what formula you might want to use for a given kind of information. If this works well, it could be quite helpful, but if it doesnt, it could get annoying. All of this and more will be rolling out over the coming months, according to Google.