How does Excel 365’s Data from Picture work outside the carefully selected demos shown by Microsoft?
Data from Picture converts a photo of a document or table into an Excel worksheet. It does that by sending the image to Microsoft’s cloud servers for interpretation. The converted table comes back to your device for review and insertion into a workbook.
It’s available in both Android and Apple devices with Excel Mobile with an Office 365 subscription. The examples for this article come from an iPad and Android smartphone.
Instead of relying on Microsoft assurances, we’ve tried Data from Picture for ourselves. To be more than fair, most of our tests were on simple printouts of Excel tables (which you’d expect Excel to handle easily). Only one test was something more complicated.
Take the photo
Go to Data from Picture and click. That will open the camera on your device.
Take a photo as usual then crop to the area for processing.
Click Done and wait while Microsoft’s servers do their thing. Then you’re shown a split-view with the image plus a grid of conversion. Anything Excel isn’t sure about is colored pink for Review.
Go through all the review items. Either correct the text as required or click Ignore.
Non-review items (in white cells) can still be changed. Click in that cell and choose to either copy or edit it.
When you’re done, click Insert and the table goes into your workbook.
The document should be well lit, with good contrast for taking the photo.
Take the photo as ‘straight on’ as possible with right-angles. Try to avoid taking a photo ‘from the side’ at a skewed angle. Microsoft’s system is supposed to correct for that, but it doesn’t work very well.
The Review options are OK for small corrections and typos within cells.
Larger changes, like rearranging and merging cells are easier done in the Excel workbook than the very limited Review pane.
Review items (pink cells) may be correct, but the ‘Data from Picture’ system isn’t sure.
Non-review items (white cell) may be wrong … always double check.