Microsoft fixes the Excel feature that was wrecking scientific data


In 2020, scientists determined simply to remodel the alphanumeric symbols they used to characterize genes slightly than attempt to take care of an Excel characteristic that was decoding their names as dates and (un)helpfully reformatting them robotically. Yesterday, a member of the Excel team posted that the corporate is rolling out an replace on Home windows and macOS to repair that.

Excel’s automated conversions are supposed to make it simpler and quicker to enter sure kinds of generally entered knowledge — numbers and dates, for example. However for scientists utilizing fast shorthand to make issues legible, it may break printed, peer-reviewed knowledge, as a 2016 study found.

Microsoft detailed the update in a weblog put up this week, including a checkbox labeled “Convert steady letters and numbers to a date.” You’ll be able to most likely guess what that toggles. The replace builds on the Computerized Knowledge Conversions settings the corporate added final 12 months, which included the choice for Excel to warn you when it’s about to get further useful and allow you to load your file with out automated conversion so you’ll be able to guarantee nothing will likely be screwed up by it.

The up to date Excel settings.
Picture: Microsoft

Microsoft’s weblog provides caveats, akin to that Excel avoids the conversion by saving the information as textual content, which suggests the information could not work for calculations later. There’s additionally a recognized problem the place you’ll be able to’t disable the conversions when operating macros.


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