Excel’s data from picture now in Windows!

The nifty Excel ‘Data from Picture’ feature is coming to Excel 365 for Windows. It’ll convert a picture of text & numbers into a worksheet … almost.

Data from Picture is already in Excel 365 for Mac and Excel Mobile apps for iPhone, iPad and Android.  It’s been unaccountably missing from Windows Excel until now.

We’ve done some tests to see how reliable the conversion is, rather than rely on Microsoft’s lofty promises.  The system isn’t perfect but certainly better than a few years ago when the ‘Data from Picture’ cloud service was first introduced into Apple and Android devices.

Just like in 2019 (see The big weakness in Excel’s Data from Picture ) we’ve done a ‘more than fair’ test by asking Excel to merely convert an image of an Excel worksheet.  Can’t get much easier than that.

Data from Picture

Excel’s Data from Picture is tucked away on the Data tab among all the Get & Transform Data options.

Select a photo or use the one in the clipboard. It will appear in a Data from Picture side-pane after a short pause as it’s uploaded to Microsoft’s servers and analyzed.

Below the image is the returned data in cells.  Red cells are ones that Microsoft’s system isn’t sure about and would like you to check.

Overall, in our tests, Data from Picture did a better job than a few years ago but still has problems. 

Even now, Microsoft’s system doesn’t put the currency symbol into the same cell as the value.

Check ALL the cells

But you still need to check ALL the cells, not just the red ones.  As you can see above, there are minor glitches in red and gray cells. There were a lot more than in the example above.

Notice that the top row is messed up with the Price label in a split cell (which isn’t marked in red).  This is the kind of problem that can’t easily be fixed in the review panel.

You can type in the Review pane cells to fix errors (like not recognizing a £ sign).  If you don’t check all the red background cells, Excel will warn you before adding into a worksheet.

Insert Data

Click Insert Data to copy the draft cells into the current worksheet.

This is where it’s a little easier to fix problems like the extra row at the top.

The money values in Column C need to be converted to Currency or Accounting cell format – for the correct currency.  Move the Price label to Cell C1. Only then can Col B can be removed.

Look for other minor glitches such as the incorrect characters for the Apple stock code or the incorrect name for Tencent Holdings in row 11.  Plus, of course, all the prefix characters in Col A caused by the LDT Stock symbol in the original picture.

All that’s NOT to say that Excel’s Data from Picture is bad, it’s really quite good. But keep in mind that it’s not as great as Microsoft pretends. The example in this article is just a photo of a Excel table using default fonts, colors and formatting.  Give Data from Picture something different like a simple bar menu and a lot more human work is needed.

Get the best from Excel Data from Picture

The source document should be well and evenly lit, with good contrast for taking the photo.

Take the photo as ‘straight on’ as possible. 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.

Review items (red cells) may be correct, but the ‘Data from Picture’ system isn’t sure.

Non-review items (white cell) may be wrong … always double check.

Larger changes, like rearranging and merging cells are easier done in the Excel workbook than the very limited Review pane.

Who gets it?

Data from Picture is in Excel 365 for Windows, Insiders Beta v2207 (Build 15402.20002), and eventually for Preview and Public releases.

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