I use my smartphone more than my laptop. Faxes and scanning are done with apps like Readdle's Scanner Pro. Tripit is my go-to for managing travel. And now Microsoft is trying to change how we all do our taxes, payroll and anything that requires a big, ugly spreadsheet.

You can now scan a bunch of numbers on paper and use Microsoft Excel to automatically read the numbers and translate them into spreadsheet form. It could potentially give you back years of your life.

The specifics.

According to a Microsoft blog post, you download the new Excel app and simply take a picture of the number table. Your smart phone will then move it into the appropriate boxes within Excel.

The app will be available very soon on Android, with Microsoft promising an iOS version later.

The use cases.

I'm thinking of multiple uses for the app. First, it could make next year's tax season less stressful. How many spreadsheets does your business use? My own company has different forms for income, deductibles, and so on -- and I don't even have any employees.

Second, if you do have employees, then details like payroll, benefits, and more can be easily taken into one specific location. For instance, if your employees have a health care tax credit, then you may need to take the end-of-year forms from the government and report them through your organization.

Why this is the future.

If you think about it, typing and retyping documents is the last frontier of technology. We can scan, we can remotely share ideas, but we still need to rewrite things that aren't compatible with other things. The picture-to-document process is pretty phenomenal and, hopefully, Microsoft (and others) can fulfill the promise here.

Published on: Mar 12, 2019