Q. I have seen several articles about an AI tool called ChatGPT, where you ask a question, and it can give you the answer. Can this be used to assist with Excel?
A. ChatGPT is an AI chatbot from OpenAI that can have a conversation with you and assist with certain questions or tasks. ChatGPT is currently in its initial preview and therefore free. This tool is already capable of some great things, but it is being improved and enhanced even more during this initial stage. While the tool can certainly be helpful, it has limitations, including that it sometimes gives incorrect information. Be sure to check the accuracy of the information ChatGPT provides. If you use it for Excel assistance, you can simply see if the information it gives you works. If it does not, you can ask ChatGPT again, and it will try something different. To get started, simply go to chat.openai.com and create an account.
I thought it fitting to start off by asking ChatGPT the question above. Here is its answer:
This response intrigued me, so I put it to the test. Although ChatGPT currently cannot directly interact with an Excel spreadsheet, I found it could do many things to assist with Excel, which is especially helpful for more challenging tasks.
I first asked ChatGPT, "Is it possible to make a PivotTable using multiple sources of data in Excel?" Its response was:
I felt this answer was good, but someone unfamiliar with the process might find this a bit difficult to follow. One of the most exciting things about ChatGPT is you can have an actual conversation. It's not just one question and one answer. You can have a back and forth. So, I asked ChatGPT to give the steps for this process. It did so as shown in the screenshot below.
I decided to try something more complicated and see if ChatGPT could accomplish the task. I looked at some online posts and came across a question on MrExcel.com about writing a macro to name 12 worksheets using sequential months based on the month selected for the first sheet.
I entered the following section of the post into ChatGPT and this was its response:
ChatGPT offers a suggestion to create a macro to accomplish this task, but for anyone not proficient in VBA, the instructions are probably not thorough enough. So, I asked a follow-up question, and this is how ChatGPT responded:
Now the macro has been written for me. But still, a lot of people wouldn't know what to do with this code. So, I continued to ask ChatGPT for help, and it responded as follows:
I followed the step-by-step instructions, and the macro worked! After I ran the macro, it asked me what the start month was. I entered a 1 for January, 2 for February, etc., and it changed the tab names to the proper months as shown below.
While my first attempt asking ChatGPT for this macro was successful, several other attempts were not. As I previously mentioned, every time you ask the tool a question, you will get a different answer, or at least one phrased a different way.
There are limits on how many times a user can use ChatGPT, but the current exact number is not disclosed. Once it becomes a paid service, I imagine there will be varying pricing plans.
ChatGPT is certainly not limited to just Excel assistance. I had my family play around with it. My husband asked it for instructions on doing some repairs on his Mustang. My son asked what code to enter to get a pickaxe on Minecraft. A student of mine asked it to explain how to make brownies. Play around with it and ask it questions or ask it to do something. OpenAI wants your feedback so the tool will continue to learn and get even better. In case you're stumped on your first question, here's a suggestion: "What is the number one accounting practitioner journal?"
Below is a video I made using ChatGPT to assist with Excel.
About the author
Kelly L. Williams, CPA, Ph.D., MBA, is an associate professor of accounting at the Jones College of Business at Middle Tennessee State University.
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