New machine learning-powered features for Google Sheets could make it easier for professionals to build a pivot table, gain new insights from their data, and leverage the proper spreadsheet formulas, according to a Google blog post.

Google first offered machine-learning powered data insights with the Explore feature it added last year. Now, machine learning is being leveraged to add power and flexibility to data insights.

Many of the new features focus on pivot tables, a visualization tool that summarizes data and helps show the relationships that exist between datasets. For starters, the post said, if a user already has their data organized in a spreadsheet, Google Sheets will automatically suggest a pivot table to go along with that data.

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To better understand their data, users can ask questions about it using natural language, the post said. This is made possible by a technology known as natural language processing (NLP). Within the Explore pane in Sheets, the post said, a user can simply ask a question such as “What is the sum of revenue by salesperson?” and receive the desired answer.

To create a new pivot table from the ground up, Sheets will suggest relevant tables that might help a user get the most out of their data. It will also auto-suggest row and column criteria for manually-built pivot tables too, the post said.

In addition to making it easier to build pivot tables, the new Sheets features include suggested spreadsheet formulas whenever a user types = in a cell. “Using machine intelligence, Sheets provides full formula suggestions to you based on contextual clues from your spreadsheet data. We designed this to help teams save time and get answers more intuitively,” the post said.

The UI for pivot tables in Sheets has been updated, and users will now be able to customize headings for both rows and columns, the post said. There’s also a new way to view data in pivot tables with “show values as a % of totals” that will show summarized values as a fraction of grand total. Additional formatting options like repeated row labels are also coming to pivot tables in Sheets.

Additionally, users can create waterfall charts, and can add fixed-width formatted data files, which Sheets will automatically split up and organize, the post said.

While no specific date was given, the post did say that the new features would be available soon.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. Google announced a slew of new features, powered by machine learning, that will make it easier to organize data in Sheets and build pivot tables.
  2. Google Sheets will also automatically suggest spreadsheet formulas that may help users get the most out of the data they are using.
  3. The pivot tables UI in Sheets is also being updated, and users will now be able to create and edit waterfall charts as well.