Microsoft is preparing an update for spreadsheet software Excel that rectifies an obvious shortcoming dating back a number of years.
According to a new entry in the company’s product roadmap, Excel will soon allow users to drop hyperlinks into comments added to spreadsheets. Currently, links can only be added to comments in plaintext, so must be pasted manually into a web browser.
The feature is currently under development, but should roll out to all Microsoft 365 users by the end of next month.
Given the simplicity and obvious utility of the new Excel feature, we found it difficult to believe it didn’t already exist. But lo and behold, a brief investigation revealed the current version will not allow the user to click through a link embedded in a comment thread, which adds unnecessary friction to the experience.
A quick search online reveals this is a problem Excel users have faced for years. Until now, people have had to rely on a rough-and-ready workaround to sidestep the issue.
As various online tutorials demonstrate, it is possible to add a hyperlink to a note (which is distinct from a comment) and pin that note to the sheet so it doesn’t disappear when the user mouses away from the associated cell. Microsoft Excel will then launch that URL in the default browser when someone clicks through via the note.
However, this method is neither particularly straightforward (it demands all existing formatting and any additional characters are removed from the note) nor particularly pretty, so the ability to simply drop a hyperlink into a comment thread will be welcome.
The update can be considered part of the wider campaign to optimize Microsoft 365 apps for live collaboration, in a world in which many people expect to either remain remote or adopt a hybrid working model.
In December, for example, Microsoft rolled out a series of improvements for the Excel web client, which can now support a wider range of files. Microsoft Outlook, meanwhile, received a feature that lets users specify whether they will attend a meeting in-person or through video conferencing software.
The company has even launched an entirely new collaboration app, called Loop, which allows users to create portable components that move freely and stay in-sync across all Microsoft apps.
The new hyperlink facility for Excel is yet another piece of this same puzzle.