Using Copilot

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated March 30, 2024)
This tip applies to Excel Excel in Microsoft 365


4

Jennifer has been told that she needs to learn how to use Copilot in Excel. She wonders what, exactly, Copilot is, and how she can best discover how to use the tool.

Copilot is an AI-enabled add-in for various Microsoft products (including Excel) that can help you accomplish work using those products. It appears that Microsoft is positioning Copilot like an expert that will sit beside you and help you accomplish your work through a series of prompts. If you've used ChatGPT before, you'll understand the concept behind Copilot, with the exception that Copilot focuses solely on Microsoft products.

If you want to see all the flashy marketing hype for Copilot, this Microsoft site is as good as any place to start:

https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/copilot-excel

More important, though, is understanding that Copilot is not free. While it works with Microsoft 365, it requires an additional subscription and is available only in certain areas. This means shelling out additional money each month in order to add Copilot functionality. This is explained at this Microsoft site:

https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/topic/where-can-i-get-microsoft-copilot-40a622db-6d25-4266-b008-4bbcb55cf52f?ocid=CopilotLab_SMC_Resources_Purchase

Of course, Jennifer may already have access to Copilot through her work. If so, then whoever is responsible for the Windows systems at her company should be able to give her the proper information to log in to Copilot. Once she is sure she can log in, then Copilot will show up as a tool on the Home tab of the Excel's ribbon. Clicking the tool will allow her to start presenting queries to Copilot and interacting with the software.

If you would like a good tutorial on how to use Copilot, the following is a good source from the Ablebits website:

https://www.ablebits.com/office-addins-blog/excel-copilot-tutorial/

As Copilot use becomes more widespread, it is unavoidable that there will be other tutorials that become available. Simply typing "Copilot tutorial" into a search engine should yield a good number of results you can pursue.

There is one other thing to mention in closing: If you use Copilot in a corporate environment, be very careful what you give to the program. Any information you provide to Copilot is used by the program (i.e., Microsoft) to "learn" and to provide better answers. Take a look, for instance, at this site:

https://copilot.cloud.microsoft/en-us/prompts

There is an entire section on the page entitled "Copilot and Your Privacy," and it has links that specifically say "learn more about how Copilot uses your data...". If you don't want your data used by others (albeit a program), then don't share that data with the others. At this point, this seems to be the safest approach to whatever information you want to keep confidential.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (13228) applies to Microsoft Excel Excel in Microsoft 365.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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Comments

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What is one more than 7?

2024-03-31 10:19:39

J. Woolley

@Philip
Thank you for clarification. I don't take credit for the four points in my comment; I was simply trying to highlight some items from the Ablebits tutorial referenced in the Tip.


2024-03-31 02:45:31

Philip

@J. Woolley, I beg to differ with the first two points you mention. I use Copilot (pay for it too), and regardless of whether I'm using a workbook on my OneDrive or SharePoint with autosave on, or a workbook on my iCloud Drive (no autosave) and with NO tables in the workbook, Copilot will work (on Mac and on Windows).

Probably there are some limitations to what Copilot can do with those non-OneDrive/SharePoint files if the tenant admin has set Copilot to be limited to the context of your organisation (since only files accessible within the tenant carrying the license(s) are accessible then), but if that limitation is not set by the tenant, it will work.

Your third point is probably the most important one and one that is often ignored ... Copilot (at least at this stage) regularly misses the target, and even if you ask Copilot to write an Excel formula or a piece of VBA code for you, it is important to FIRST understand exactly how it works and what it does before accepting it as solution and implementing it.


2024-03-30 12:25:00

J. Woolley

According to the Ablebits tutorial:
+ "Copilot is only available for Excel files (.xlsx or .xlsm) that are stored on OneDrive or SharePoint with AutoSave turned on." If your workbook is saved locally on your computer, you must move it to the cloud before using Copilot.
+ Copilot only works with Excel Tables. If your workbook doesn't use Tables, you must convert it.
+ Copilot "generated content may be incorrect....Therefore, it's important to double-check the generated formulas and visuals...."
+ Copilot is expensive. See comment below by Ron S.


2024-03-30 05:09:39

Ron S

CoPilot is an "A.I." (Automated Idiot) for Office and Windows apps. It requires Office 365. You pay an extra US$20 or US$30 PER USER PER MONTH. I hope your boss is paying for it. And that they will pay for training courses you can find.

CoPilot works with Excel, Outlook, Word and a few other applications.

This article describes it in general:
https://www.makeuseof.com/copilot-microsoft-365-worth-price/


Here is another good intro
https://www.process.st/how-to/use-microsoft-copilot/

I'd suggest taking a course, but it is probably still too new. It is something you have to play with, "hands on", to figure out how it works and how you may be able to apply it to your tasks.

CoPilot is like other "A.I.", such as ChatGPT. On that basis you may want to pick one of them and play with it. They tend to have more learning materials, even courses available on the internet.

Google is your friend. There are some (free & Paid) introductory materials available on the internet.

It would be nice after you get acquainted with it you write a short article for Allen to post here for the rest of us to learn from.


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