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Excel is now officially a programming language, and Microsoft says it is the most widely used in the world

26 mayo, 2021

It is already possible, in principle, to write any calculation in the Excel formula language“Microsoft explains. This means that Excel can officially be considered a programming language, one that the company says is already” full Turing, “and it’s all thanks to a project called LAMBDA.

The amount of things that can be done in Excel gives for days and days of conversation. We’ve seen spreadsheets you’d never believe demonstrating how powerful Microsoft’s tool can be when used by someone with great skill. But now everything goes further, because the Excel team has managed to eliminate the limitations that prevented them from being transform spreadsheet formulas into a complete programming language.

Excel has more users than C, C ++, C #, Java, and Python combined

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Millions of people around the world use Excel to organize, analyze and visualize data. That’s more people than programming in the five most used programming languages, so Microsoft has not hesitated to embrace that idea that Excel is now the most widely used programming language of all.

But everything is not that simple, and “programming in Excel” can be considered quite complex, especially for a user and not a programming or mathematical enthusiast.

Up to now Excel had two fundamental limitations that prevented it from being considered a programming language full:

  • Excel only supported scalar values: numbers, strings, and Booleans.
  • It didn’t let users define new roles.

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This has changed thanks to LAMBDA, “the ultimate Excel feature.” This function basically allows users to define new functions written in Excel’s own formula language, and thanks to LAMBDA, Excel is now “Turing full”.

Being “full Turing”, according to theoretical computing, means that a programming language can implement any possible algorithm. This tells us about how powerful a programming language is, not about performance or maintainability or how rich its ecosystem is.

Besides this Excel is no longer limited to text and numbersInstead, cells are now allowed to contain first-class records, including entities linked to external data, and dynamic arrays allow ordinary formulas to compute integer arrays that span adjacent cells.

Microsoft explains in great detail on their blog and on video how exactly this works and the math behind the trailer. It is clear that a certain level of skill is required to create something with LAMBDA, but the company does not doubt that the surrounding community welcomes the changes with great enthusiasm.

In fact, they have said that with this project are launching a global experiment on user-level programming with high-level functions. To use LAMBDA at the moment you need to be a member of the Office Insider program.