This new Microsoft Excel feature is so obvious we can’t believe it didn’t already exist

Microsoft is preparing an update for spreadsheet software Excel that rectifies an obvious shortcoming dating back a number of years.

According to a new entry in the company’s product roadmap, Excel will soon allow users to drop hyperlinks into comments added to spreadsheets. Currently, links can only be added to comments in plaintext, so must be pasted manually into a web browser.

The feature is currently under development, but should roll out to all Microsoft 365 users by the end of next month.

Given the simplicity and obvious utility of the new Excel feature, we found it difficult to believe it didn’t already exist. But lo and behold, a brief investigation revealed the current version will not allow the user to click through a link embedded in a comment thread, which adds unnecessary friction to the experience.

A quick search online reveals this is a problem Excel users have faced for years. Until now, people have had to rely on a rough-and-ready workaround to sidestep the issue.


(Image credit: Future)

As various online tutorials demonstrate, it is possible to add a hyperlink to a note (which is distinct from a comment) and pin that note to the sheet so it doesn’t disappear when the user mouses away from the associated cell. Microsoft Excel will then launch that URL in the default browser when someone clicks through via the note.

However, this method is neither particularly straightforward (it demands all existing formatting and any additional characters are removed from the note) nor particularly pretty, so the ability to simply drop a hyperlink into a comment thread will be welcome.

The update can be considered part of the wider campaign to optimize Microsoft 365 apps for live collaboration, in a world in which many people expect to either remain remote or adopt a hybrid working model.

In December, for example, Microsoft rolled out a series of improvements for the Excel web client, which can now support a wider range of files. Microsoft Outlook, meanwhile, received a feature that lets users specify whether they will attend a meeting in-person or through video conferencing software.

The company has even launched an entirely new collaboration app, called Loop, which allows users to create portable components that move freely and stay in-sync across all Microsoft apps.

The new hyperlink facility for Excel is yet another piece of this same puzzle.

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Exclusive: We’re all far more dependent on Teams and Zoom than we want to believe

The widespread dependence on collaboration and video conferencing services brought about by the pandemic has introduced significant business risk, new research suggests.

According to data collected by software firm StarLeaf, provided exclusively to TechRadar Pro, almost all (97%) businesses say that tools such as Zoom, Webex and Teams are now essential to their operations.

More than half (57%) of the 2,000 UK-based respondents claim their company would not be able to operate for more than an hour without access to their communications tools, while 27% admitted they would struggle to function for even 30 minutes.

What back-up plan?

With a large proportion of workers still confined to their home offices by the pandemic, it is obviously uncontroversial to predict a continued dependence on cloud-based collaboration software. However, what comes as a surprise is the lack of contingency planning among organizations, most of which are now utterly reliant on these kinds of services for business continuity.

Despite this “extreme dependency”, only 32% of companies have established a back-up plan that insures against service outages, which have been relatively common in recent weeks. Among this group, a quarter said their contingency plan would involve turning to consumer apps like WhatsApp, which are ill-suited to professional use cases.

StarLeaf says the consequences of downtime would be particularly acute in sectors such as customer service and sales, with staff unable to carry out their jobs without access to communications tools. 

Respondents registered serious concerns about the consequences of a pause in service caused by an outage. Half of those surveyed suspect an incident of this kind would have a severe impact on the reputation of their company, with knock-on effects on the bottom line.

“The way of doing business now takes place predominantly using communications platforms. And while this has many benefits, such as the ability to work from anywhere and hire staff from across the world, this is also leaving companies vulnerable to major disruption. The sheer pace of digital transformation over the last two years is the reason for this liability oversight,” said Mark Richer, StarLeaf CEO.

“As we look ahead to 2022, businesses need to ensure they have a failover system so they can continue to operate, no matter what happens to their comms platform.”

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