– Ben Martens

Microsoft “Data Explorer” Preview

Aside from a brief online service offered a while back and some betas for previous semi-related projects, most of the work I’ve been doing on the job has been held close to the vest. We’ve been cranking away at a new iteration of our product and it’s now public!

So what is this Microsoft “Data Explorer” Preview for Excel? If you’re a journalist who stumbled on my site and/or you’re looking for the official answer, please visit the Data Explorer blog. But here’s my quick, unofficial summary: it’s targeted at those of you who pull in data from a variety of sources, combine the datasets together, clean it up, reshape it, and push it into Excel. Here’s a quick video that explains a little more:

One key thing that the video doesn’t cover directly is that this can be a great way to work with large data sets. Even if your dataset is millions and millions of rows, we can show you a preview very quickly. That preview gives you enough information to filter it down to just the rows you need, hide some columns that might not be important, and THEN load it into Excel. Depending on how much you’ve filtered out, it could take just a few minutes for your data to show up in Excel.

We heard from lots of customers who have to pull together data from various data sources every single week to generate a report for their teams. With Data Explorer, as you collect all your various data sets and transform them, you’re actually building a little script in the background. Once it’s on the sheet and you click Refresh, we actually go back out to all those data sources and grab the latest data, run it through your script, and present it to you again. So now that lengthy weekly report is just a single click away.

Sometimes finding the data is half the battle. Data Explorer aims to make that easier with the Online Search button. Search for data and drop it right onto your sheet.

Here are some links to get you going:

It’s worth noting that this is a “Preview.” As the test lead for the UX team, I could quickly point to bugs and design issues in our product. We’ve been working hard to improve the quality and stability of Data Explorer, but there’s more work to be done before we officially release it. To make sure we’re focusing our efforts in the right place, we need to hear from you! After you’ve tried the product, head over to the forums and start a conversation or add to an existing one.

This is a very exciting time for our team and we hope this preview sparks ideas about how this can speed up some of the tasks in your life. We haven’t played all of our cards with this preview. There are some very exciting features in the pipeline!