Part 1: How to make Microsoft Excel talk to MS Word

Microsoft Excel and Word are like chalk and cheese. One is great for data, the other for formatting documents. But, you can make them join forces!
Christopher McFadden
Illustration image: Microsoft Excel and Word logos on a blue background.
Illustration image: Microsoft Excel and Word logos on a blue background.

Interesting Engineering  

  • Microsoft Excel and Word are some of the world's most widely used software applications.
  • They've been around for a long time, and most employers will often require at least a basic literacy in either or both.
  • But did you know there are ways to make these two applications "talk" to one another?

MS Excel is a spreadsheet program for saving data, creating tables and charts, and performing complex calculations. While as Microsoft Word is a word processing program that is used for letter writing, document creation, and report creation, among other things.

They are both part of the Microsoft Office suite, but their uses and functionality differ. However, bringing them together can work wonders for you.

But before we get into that, you might wonder why you'd even bother.

What are the benefits of linking MS Excel and MS Word?

The first thing to note is that both applications are designed primarily for different purposes. While there is some overlap between them, because of their respective "specializations," they will perform better at one task than another.

Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel are both powerful productivity tools, but each has its unique strengths and capabilities.

Microsoft Word is a word-processing application mainly used for creating, editing, and formatting text-based documents, such as letters, reports, and articles. Some of the things that Word can do that Excel cannot include:

  • Page layout and design: Word has a wide range of tools for controlling page layout, including margins, page borders, and the arrangement of text and images.
  • Text formatting: Word provides a wealth of options for formatting text, including font size and type, color, bold, italics, and underlining.
  • Document templates: Word includes a range of templates that make it easy to create professional-looking documents, such as letters, resumes, and business plans.

On the other hand, Microsoft Excel is a spreadsheet application used for organizing, analyzing, and manipulating data. Some of the things that Excel can do that Word cannot include:

  • Data analysis: Excel provides various tools for analyzing data, including pivot tables, charts, and statistical functions.
  • Data organization: Excel makes it easy to organize large amounts of data into tables and provides tools for sorting, filtering, and aggregating data.
  • Financial calculations: Excel has a wide range of financial functions, making it an ideal tool for managing budgets, calculating loan payments, and performing other financial calculations.

So, while both Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel are powerful productivity tools, each has its unique strengths and capabilities, and the choice between the two will depend on the projects' specific needs. Which you would use would normally depend on your goal, but you may not actually have to choose between them.

Why not get the best of both worlds by making them collaborate for you?

By linking Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Word, you can get, for example, the following benefits:

  • Improved efficiency: Linking Excel and Word can save time and effort by eliminating the need to copy and paste data between the two applications manually. Instead, both applications automatically update the data whenever changes are made.
  • Increased accuracy: By linking the data between Excel and Word, the chances of manual errors or inconsistencies are reduced, leading to more accurate information.
  • Dynamic reporting: By linking Excel data to Word, you can create dynamic reports that automatically update when the underlying data changes. This is, quite frankly, one of the best reasons for combining the best of both.
  • Reusability: Linked data can be easily reused in different documents without requiring manual updates.
  • Better collaboration: Linking Excel and Word makes it easier for teams to work together on a project, as changes made in one application are reflected in the other, ensuring everyone has access to the most up-to-date information.

Overall, linking Excel and Word can streamline work processes and improve the accuracy and efficiency of data-driven projects.

Is Microsoft Word better than Excel?

Which is better, a hammer or a carrot? One is a tool for making things, and the other is food (which may or may not help your night vision); they are not the same thing.

So, when it comes to Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel, both are valuable productivity tools, but they serve different purposes.

Word is a word-processing program used to create and edit text-based documents such as letters, reports, and essays. Excel is a spreadsheet program used to organize, analyze, and manipulate numerical data. It also creates charts, graphs, and other visual data representations.

So, the better option depends on the specific task or project you're working on. If you're working with text and documents, Word is a better choice. If you're working with numerical data, Excel is the better choice.

So, let's say you want to make some document templates. This could be a standard letter or something like that. For document creation and editing, Microsoft Word is the better choice.

In this case, Word would probably be the better choice since it is a word-processing program designed to create and format text-based documents such as letters, reports, essays, and more. It has a wide range of features for text formatting, page layout, image insertion, and more that make it well-suited for document creation.

However, let's say you want to draft a data collection form. In this case, Microsoft Excel is the better choice. Excel is a spreadsheet program designed explicitly for organizing, analyzing, and manipulating numerical data. It has various data entry, calculation, and chart creation features that make it well-suited for data collection and analysis.

So, as a rule of thumb, if what you are making requires a lot of typing words or using images, choose Word; for anything number or data related, choose excel.

Is Excel harder to use than Word?

The difficulty level of using Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Word depends on the specific task you're trying to accomplish and your prior experience with the programs.

Microsoft Word is relatively easy to use for basic word-processing tasks such as typing, formatting text, and creating simple documents.

For basic data organization and analysis tasks such as entering data into a spreadsheet, performing simple calculations, and creating charts, Microsoft Excel is also relatively easy to use.

However, the difficulty level can increase as you start to work on more complex projects in either program. Excel, in particular, has a steeper learning curve regarding advanced functions and formulas.

Ultimately, both programs have a learning curve and can take some time to master. The difficulty level will depend on your prior experience and the specific tasks you're trying to accomplish.

How do you link MS Excel to MS Word?

So, if we've sold you on combing the strengths of both Microsoft Word and Excel, there are several ways you can go about it.

Which one, if any, methods you choose will depend entirely on your needs, as you'd expect.

  • Linking data: You can merge data from an Excel spreadsheet into a Word document. The data will update in real-time if you make any changes to the Excel file. This is by far the most effective method and allows you to benefit from the document formatting capabilities of Word while also helping from Excel's superb data processing capabilities.
  • Embedding data: You can embed an Excel spreadsheet into a Word document. This will allow you to view and edit the data directly in the Word document. Similar to the linking data, this option will automatically update.
  • Mail Merge: You can use the Mail Merge feature in Word to import data from an Excel spreadsheet and create personalized letters, emails, labels, or envelopes. This is probably the most utilized method of combining Excel and Word. You can store contact details in Excel and then use that data to pump out personalized form letters and other documents to lots of people with the click of a button.
  • Copy and paste: You can copy and paste data from an Excel spreadsheet into a Word document. This is the simplest method and one you've probably used yourself in the past. However, the data is simply a "snapshot" in time and does not automatically update. You would need to manually copy and paste it again when the data is updated on the spreadsheet.
  • Export to Word: You can export an Excel worksheet or a range of cells as a Word table. Again, similar to other methods mentioned above, you'll need to do this manually every time. However, it can offer a better "looking" table format than simply cutting and pasting, for example.

To use these features, you must have both Microsoft Excel, and Microsoft Word installed on your computer. You can then open both programs and switch between them to copy, link, or embed data.

Can You Get Free Word and Excel?

In short— legally, sort of, illegally, yes.

We won't discuss the latter here, but as for legal "free" versions, you do have some options.

Microsoft offers a "free" version of Microsoft 365 that people can use. It won't provide the full benefits of a paid-for version, but it will give you a basic package that can be used for most basic uses. Unfortunately, this version won't "cut the mustard" for the more complex functions described above.

Office 365 isn't that expensive, so you might consider paying the fee to access Microsoft's pretty neat suite of programs. Alternatively, if you are an employee, chances are your employer already has a license.

Otherwise, there are plenty of free alternatives to Microsoft Word and Excel.

For a free word processing program, you can use Google Docs. Google Docs is a web-based word-processing program that is free to use and provides many of the same features as Microsoft Word.

For a free spreadsheet program, you can use Google Sheets. Google Sheets is a web-based spreadsheet program that is free to use and provides many of the same features as Microsoft Excel.

And that is your lot for today.

So, how do you go about doing that? Watch out for the space in the next installment of this mini-series.

Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
message circleSHOW COMMENT (1)chevron
Job Board