Excel Data Types Basics: How to Make the Most of These New Datasets

When companies are looking for one of the best ways to optimize to lower costs and improve efficiencies, they often look for new business solutions to add to the tools they’re already using. However, one of the best ways to optimize is to look for untapped features in applications you’re already using.

Microsoft 365 is particularly rich with hidden features that can save you time and money. One of these that most companies aren’t even aware of is Data Types in Excel.

Knowing how to use this feature can take hours or days off of research time for facts and figures on various topics. It can also eliminate the need to copy/paste those facts from a webpage or other reference into a spreadsheet.

If you’ve ever needed information on foods, plants, terrain, medical tests, cities, or a wide range of other topics, then you’ll want to take a look at this primer on Excel Data Types. It could completely change how you approach a variety of tasks.

What Are Data Types in Excel? 

Data Types, also referred to as Linked Data Types, are a category of data. 

For example, if you type a list, such as:

  • Akron
  • Johnson City
  • Nashville
  • Atlanta
  • Cleveland

You would instantly recognize those as cities. If you use the Data Type in Excel called “Cities,” you would be telling Excel these are cities, and Excel links you to a database of facts and figures related to different cities.

Once connected to that database, from within your Excel spreadsheet you can bring in all types of information on cities for your list, such as:

  • Population
  • Elevation
  • # of Households
  • Local Map
  • Total Rate of Crime
  • Population by Different Ages Groups
  • And much more

Where Do I Find Data Types?

You can access Data Types on the “Data” tab, under “Data Types.”

When you click to open the window, you’ll see all the options you have for different categories of data. You can find a description of each category here.

The thing that has made Data Types take on a whole new level of helpfulness is that Microsoft recently expanded the list of available Data Types from just two to 18. This means that a lot more industries can get a direct connection to information that they use in their operations. 

The current Data Type options include:

  1. Anatomy
  2. Animals
  3. Automatic (automatically detects things like books and other media)
  4. Chemistry
  5. Cities
  6. Currencies
  7. Foods
  8. Geography
  9. Locations
  10. Medical
  11. Movies
  12. People 
  13. Plants
  14. Space
  15. Stocks 
  16. Terrain
  17. Universities
  18. Yoga

How Do I Use Data Types?

We’ll go through an example for a list of foods that someone is using to create a recipe for a restaurant to explain how to use this Excel feature.

In this case, using data types is a big time-saver when it comes to calculating out things like calories and other nutritional information that’s needed to list on a menu. 

  • Step 1: Open Excel and type your list of foods into a column.
  • Step 2: Highlight your data.
  • Step 3: Click the “Data” tab in the menu.
  • Step 4: In the Data Types window, look for Foods, and click.
  • Step 5: Your data will be converted to the Foods data type and Excel will connect it to Microsoft’s database with facts and figures on foods. A small icon will appear to the left of the data indicating it has been converted to a data type.
  • Step 6: Highlight your data again and click the small database icon that is displayed to the right of the first selected cell.
  • Step 7: Choose the data you want, and it will populate into the next open column on the right for each highlighted cell. You can do this multiple times to populate all the details you need into your spreadsheet in an instant.

Troubleshooting If You Get a Question Mark

If Excel needs help recognizing your entry and matching it to the database, you’ll see a question mark icon instead of the Data Types icon appear next to the entry. A panel will open on the right for more information.

In some cases, there may be two entries with the same name and Excel needs you to choose one. In other cases, it may not recognize the entry at all, and you should then try to use another term to describe the item.

Uses for Data Types

There are multiple uses for Data Types in a wide variety of industries. Some of these include:

  • Construction/Architecture/Engineering: Terrain, Locations, and Cities Data Types
  • Healthcare Industry: Medical and Anatomy Data Types
  • Health & Fitness Studios: Yoga and Foods Data Types
  • Restaurants & Hotels: Foods Data Type
  • R&D Facilities: Chemistry Data Type
  • Finance Industry: Currencies and Stocks Data Types
  • Education: Universities, Space, Plants, and Other Data Types

These are just a few. Once you get into using this feature you can see how it can benefit nearly any industry, saving significant research time and proving reams of free data at your fingertips.

Get Help Lowering Costs & Boosting Productivity 

Unbound Digital can help your Johnson City, Tennessee business identify tools you use with untapped potential to help you save money and improve efficiency.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation. Call 423-335-2461 or reach us online.


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