It may be the oldest piece of software still in widespread use. It was 34 years ago, just three years after Apple introduced its very first Macs, that Microsoft released the first version of its familiar Excel spreadsheet app, initially a rough copy of Dan Bricklin’s VisiCalc. Fast forward to the future, and the Irish Times noted in 2017 that Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella was calling Excel Microsoft’s most important consumer product, pointing out that it had over 750 million users.
So it feels almost historic when one of the world’s largest corporations augments a crucial component of its Office software suite — yet sure enough, Excel has been upgraded with a major new feature.
Microsoft’s researchers believe they’ve now finally transformed Excel into a full-fledged programming language, thanks to the introduction of a new feature called LAMBDA.
“With LAMBDA, Excel has become Turing-complete. You can now, in principle, write any computation in the Excel formula language,”
a Microsoft blog proclaimed.
“Being Turing complete is the litmus test of a full-fledged programming language,”
explained a new article in Visual Studio Magazine. And it adds that noting that Microsoft researchers are enthusiastically envisioning skilled Excel users creating functions that appear seamlessly part of Excel to their colleagues, who simply call them.
Hey, Office Insiders— LAMBDA for #Excel is now available!
✔ Define custom functions in Excel’s formula language.
✔ Transform custom functions and wrap them up in a LAMBDA function.
Read more: https://t.co/ao5Fw2VznP pic.twitter.com/p2db45zeWu
— Microsoft Excel (@msexcel) February 3, 2021
Watch the video to see these changes, and what they mean for the future of Excel, as a programming language.