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Easily convert a photo of data into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet



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Excel inserts data from picture in action.


Angela Lang / CNET

Put the paper away and take your phone. A new Microsoft tool for Android phones can convert numbers on a sheet of paper into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet in seconds. Use the Excel Insert Data From Image tool to capture an image of data in rows and columns on a sheet of paper. The Android Excel app automatically converts the image into editable spreadsheet data.

The tool sends the image to Excel's online image recognition engine to process and convert to a spreadsheet. During the import, Excel allows you to fix any issues before they are converted. Microsoft announced that "paste data from image" will be available shortly for the iOS version of Excel.

Excel for Android is part of the Microsoft Office Mobile Apps collection, which includes Word and PowerPoint. The free versions of mobile productivity apps provide basic editing tools. With a Microsoft Office subscription, you can unlock additional features, such as the ability to work with colleagues.

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An Excel spreadsheet, converted from a printed page.


Screenshot by Clif Colby / CNET

How to convert cell phone photos to Excel spreadsheet data:

1. Tap the New button in the Android Excel app at the top of the app to create a new file. You can create a blank workbook or use one of the templates provided with the app.

2. At the bottom of the app, tap the Data from image button (it's the 3×3 grid with a camera). If you are using the tool for the first time, tap Allow to grant Microsoft permission to convert the image to data using the Microsoft Online Service.

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Correct a printed fantasy football cheatsheet before creating an Excel spreadsheet.


Screenshot of Clifford Colby / CNET

. 3 Position the red rectangle around the data you want to capture, then tap the round Capture button. The app is a bit fussy in terms of function and non-identification as data, so you may need a few tries to capture what you want.

4. If you are satisfied with the picture you have taken, tap the red check mark to convert the data. If not, tap the X and start again.

5. In a preview of the collected data, tap a cell highlighted in red, and then tap Edit to enter missing information. Touch Done after each change. You can also tap unmarked cells to make corrections or changes.

6. If you are satisfied with the data, tap Insert at the top to paste the data into your workbook.

The collected and converted data can be numbers and words, and contain lists and recipe ingredients. And while the app was amazingly accurate at converting the data from a piece of paper, we were also able to capture data from the laptop screen. However, it struggled with handwritten data.

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