Excel Online gets paid-level upgrades to filtering and in-document hyperlinks

Microsoft's March updates to Excel Online should prove handy, whether you're editing a document for work or just planning the household budget.

Microsoft’s Office Online is a free, Web-based alternative to subscription-based Office 365. Fortunately, the formatting and feature updates it continually adds bring it closer to the paid experience, such as the new additions Microsoft added to Excel Online Tuesday.

To take advantage of them, all you need is a Microsoft account, which can be as trivial as an old Hotmail email address. All of the updates should already available; if they’re not, they should appear in Excel Online before the end of the month.

Two updates stand out as more advanced features that push the Online version closer to paid Excel: in-document hyperlinks, and better PivotTable summaries. If those are beyond your needs, Microsoft also added richer table formatting options as well as an easier way to access different currencies.

Why this matters: Office Online doesn’t offer all of the features that the paid versions do, but as Microsoft continually pushes toward ever more intelligent paid apps, the bar has been raised for its free versions as well. Note that you can only view and edit documents if you don’t already have an Office 365 subscription, but there’s nothing really stopping you from creating a document on a work computer (as well as a few blank “spares”) and using those spares as “new” documents.

Tweaked features for advanced users

We've all embedded hyperlinks, but fewer people have likely used hyperlinks as in-document navigation, such as a table of contents. You can now hyperlink a cell to another cell, so that you can create a summary table, for example, that links back to more detailed findings. Naturally, you can still connect your spreadsheet to an outside webpage.

excel online hyperlink

Hyperlinking is simple, but handy.

PivotTables and PivotCharts are ways Excel spreadsheets can be used to “query” data, essentially asking the data basic questions whose answers you can act upon. Microsoft sells the more advanced versions of Excel as a medium for “business intelligence,” with more sophisticated tools to, say, track quarterly sales figures against a geographical map. Online, the tools are a bit more rudimentary.

Still, Microsoft tweaked the PivotTable > Value > Value Field Settings control to add two tabs: Summarize Value By, and Show Value As. As the names suggest, you can change the summarized value type as well as the type of calculation in the PivotTable value fields. Microsoft also added a handy search function so if you’re not exactly sure what you named a particular value, you can search against it in a filter list.

excel online currency

A dropdown menu provides more currency options.

Some basic, useful updates as well

Office Online users often don’t need thousands of cells to create a spreadsheet, so some of Microsoft’s more basic updates my actually prove to be more useful. For example, Microsoft added additional number formats; all you need to do is click Number Format > More number formats or simply right-click a cell to open the Format option. If you click the dollar-sign currency option, you’ll be able to select quickly from a list of popular currencies.

Microsoft also promised you’ll be able to rejoin the same worksheet you were on in the PC version of the Excel app when you open the same document in Excel Online.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags ExcelMicrosoftsoftware

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Mark Hachman

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?