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.)
New machine learning-powered features for Google Sheets could make it easier for professionals to build a pivot table, gain new insights from their data, and leverage the proper spreadsheet formulas, according to a Google blog post. Google first offered machine-learning powered data insights with the Explore feature it added last year. Now, machine learning is being leveraged to add power and flexibility to data insights. Many of the new features focus on pivot tables, a visualization tool that summarizes data and helps show the relationships that exist between datasets. For starters, the post said, if a user already has their data organized in a spreadsheet, Google Sheets will automatically suggest a pivot table to go along with that data. This is made possible by a technology known as natural language processing (NLP). Within the Explore pane in Sheets, the post said, a user can simply ask a question such as "What is the sum of revenue by salesperson?" and receive the desired answer. To create a new pivot table from the ground up, Sheets will suggest relevant tables that might help a user get the most out of their data. It will also auto-suggest row and column criteria for manually-built pivot tables too, the post said. In addition to making it easier to build pivot tables, the new Sheets features include suggested spreadsheet formulas whenever a user types = in a cell. " Using machine intelligence, Sheets provides full formula suggestions to you based on contextual clues from your spreadsheet data. We designed this to help teams save time and get answers more intuitively," the post said. The UI for pivot tables in Sheets has been updated, and users will now be able to customize headings for both rows and columns, the post said. There's also a new way to view data in pivot tables with "show values as a % of totals" that will show summarized values as a fraction of grand total. Additional formatting options like repeated row labels are also coming to pivot tables in Sheets. Additionally, users can create waterfall charts, and can add fixed-width formatted data files, which Sheets will automatically split up and organize, the post said. While no specific date was given, the post did say that the new features would be available soon.