Microsoft fixes an Excel feature that was destroying scientific data

In 2020, scientists decided to just reformat the alphanumeric codes they used to represent genes rather than try to deal with an Excel feature that was interpreting their names as dates and (not) automatically reformatting them usefully. Yesterday, a Posted by an Excel team member The company is rolling out an update on Windows and macOS to fix this.

Automatic conversions in Excel are intended to make it easier and faster to enter certain types of data that are commonly entered—for example, numbers and dates. But for scientists who use quick abbreviation to make things readable, it can destroy published, peer-reviewed data as a means of A 2016 study found.

Microsoft has detailed the update In a blog post this week, a checkbox titled “Convert continuous letters and numbers to date” was added. You can probably guess what makes the switch. The update builds on the automatic data conversions settings the company added last year, which included the option for Excel to warn you when it’s about to get extra help and let you upload your file without an automatic conversion so you can ensure nothing goes wrong.

Updated Excel settings.
Image: Microsoft

Microsoft’s blog adds caveats, such as that Excel avoids conversion by saving data as text, which means the data may not work for calculations later. There is also a known issue where you cannot disable transforms when running macros.

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