Flash Fill Gives Excel a Smart Charge
This is cool:
“In December 2009, Sumit Gulwani, a senior researcher at Microsoft Research Redmond, was flying home from a seminar after presenting his work devising ways to synthesize complex pieces of code.
Sitting next to him was a businesswoman. She was delighted to learn that Gulwani was both a Ph.D. in computer science and a Microsoft employee. She popped open her laptop and asked, “Is there a way to merge two columns in Excel, when one column has a first name, the other the last, so that a column has both first and last names?”
“I had to admit to her that I knew next to nothing about Excel,” Gulwani recalls. “But when I got home, I opened my own laptop and looked for Excel search words. I found hundreds of help topics. And that made me think: Maybe this is the next problem I should solve.”
Solve it he did. In a collaborative effort that spanned both Microsoft Research and the Office 2013 team, Microsoft has introduced a feature in Excel 2013 called Flash Fill. Flash Fill earned enthusiastic reviews even before Office 2013 was released Jan. 29, and it is sure to be popular with users. Flash Fill takes tedious tasks now often performed manually in Excel—or by writing one-off programs—and executes them automatically. And it does so simply, requiring only the typing in an example of what the user wants.”