×

How To Get Data From A Picture In Excel

By Chris Newman •  Updated: 06/18/22 •  6 min read
How to get data from an image in Excel.

Make This Picture In Excel!

Has your manager ever emailed you to put together a table or chart based on a picture of an old presentation? I can remember this occurring to me on multiple occasions over my career and I immediately knew I was in for a lot of typing!

Well, there is good news for all of us analysts now! Excel now has a feature that can analyze a picture through its AI (artificial intelligence) and write the picture’s data directly to the spreadsheet grid.

Excel Data from image example

This feature is currently available in Excel Beta and Excel for Mobile, but I predict it will be hitting the monthly channel of Microsoft 365 towards the end of 2022.

Let’s take a look at where this button is in the Excel ribbon and evaluate how good Microsoft’s artificial intelligence really is.

Picture File Types You Can Use

You can use nearly any type of image file to retrieve data from and picture.

Here is a list of the valid image file type extensions:

  • .jpg/.jpeg
  • .png
  • .bmp
  • .gif
  • .tiff/.tif
  • .svg
  • .ico
  • .heif
  • .hif
  • .emf
  • .wmf
  • .jfif
  • .jpe
  • .dib
  • .rle
  • .emz
  • .wmz
  • .heic

If you have a PDF file, Excel does have an alternate way to get the data into the spreadsheet.

How To Import Picture Data Into Excel

The “get data from picture” feature is located in a menu button called From Picture in Excel’s Data tab.

Steps to use the Data From Picture tool in Excel.

You have two options to choose from to import your picture into Excel.

  1. From Picture File - This will open up Windows Explorer and allow you to select a valid image file type
  2. Picture From Clipboard - If you have the image copied to your computer’s clipboard already, you may select this option.

After you have selected an image file to analyze, the Data From Picture pane will open and Excel will begin analyzing the picture with its AI.

Example of Excel analyzing a picture to pull data from

Review The Data From Picture

Because AI is never perfect, Excel gives you the opportunity to review it’s results before inserting the data into the spreadsheet. Changing the results will help Microsoft improve it’s algorithm, so it is preferrable to make any corrections inside the Data From Picture pane as opposed to on the spreadsheet post-inserting the data.

Excel Data from Picture tool pane.

Any value that Excel was unsure of will be highlighted in red in the preview grid. You can click through these manually on the preview grid and correct or you can cycle through them by clicking the blue Review button.

Results from importing data from an image file with Excel.

Referring Back To The Original Image

At the top of the Data From Picture Pane, you will notice that the original image you imported the data from is shown. As you review the results, you will want to reference this picture to validate the accuracy of the data.

  • Pane Width - It is typically best to widen the pane from it’s default width. You can do this by moving your mouse over the left-side border of the pane and dragging to the left.
  • Maneuvering- You can use your mouse to drag the image around to explore certain parts of the image. This is extremely helpful if your source image is long and does not fully fit in the pane window.
  • Zooming - You can use your scroll wheel while hovered over the image to zoom in/out of the image.

Insert Data Into Your Excel Spreadsheet

Once you have fully reviewed the data extract, the blue Review button will turn grey.

Excel AI getting data from a picture

If you are satisfied with the results, you can click the Insert Data button in the Data From Picture pane.

Afterwards, the data extracted from the image file will be inserted into the ActiveCell of the currently selected spreadsheet.

BEWARE: Currently, Excel does not warn you if the insertion of the data will override data in your spreadsheet. I have emailed Microsoft about this and hopefully this changes prior to the feature being released to Microsoft 365.

How Accurate Is This Feature

I will be honest, the AI in this feature was quite underwhelming compared to my expectations. There seem to be other online tools out there that gave me near-perfect accuracy in the results (such as OCR Space). My hope is that as more folks use this feature and take the time to correct the results, that Microsoft’s AI can catch up to the competition.

The current AI seems to struggle with a few things:

  • Special/small characters such as periods, slashes, hyphens
  • Small text that doesn’t have a lot of space between characters
  • Large spacing between rows, sometimes Excel will think there are blank rows/cells when there really aren’t any

Example #1

Image File:

Example data to pull into Excel from a picture

Result (6 corrections needed in Review):

As you can see, Excel had a difficult time with the spacing while analyzing the image. On top of this, the AI had difficulty identifying the colons (:) in the headings.

Example of getting data into excel with a picture

Example #2

I thought this image would be interesting to test since it had checkboxes in the table.

Data sample to pull into excel

Result (1 correction needed in Review):

The results from this image were actually pretty good. Excel only seemed to get confused on the spacing of the first/last row. I think this is because there were checkboxes in the image.

You will also note there was a slight typo in Cell B2, but I can understand a mix up between zeroes and the letter O.

Getting data from a picture with Excel

Example #3 - Handwritting

I’ve had a lot of instances where someone will write down something and give it to me to drop into Excel. This led me to test how handwriting held up with the AI.

Obliviously, from the results below, it failed miserably. Hopefully, this is an are where the AI gets worked on by Microsoft.

Results:

Excel example of getting data from an image

I Hope This Helped!

Hopefully, I was able to explain how you can use the new Get From Picture feature to extract data from a Picture and paste it directly into your Excel spreadsheet. If you have any questions about this technique or suggestions on how to improve it, please let me know in the comments section below.

Keep Learning

Chris Newman

Chris Newman

Chris is a finance professional and Excel MVP recognized by Microsoft since 2016. With his expertise, he founded TheSpreadsheetGuru blog to help fellow Excel users, where he shares his vast creative solutions & expertise. In addition, he has developed over 7 widely-used Excel Add-ins that have been embraced by individuals and companies worldwide.