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Microsoft fixes the Excel feature that was wrecking scientific data

An image showing the Microsoft logo on a black, green, and purple abstract background
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

In 2020, scientists decided just to rework the alphanumeric symbols they used to represent genes rather than try to deal with an Excel feature that was interpreting their names as dates and (un)helpfully reformatting them automatically. Yesterday, a member of the Excel team posted that the company is rolling out an update on Windows and macOS to fix that.

Excel’s automatic conversions are intended to make it easier and faster to input certain types of commonly entered data — numbers and dates, for instance. But for scientists using quick shorthand to make things legible, it could ruin published, peer-reviewed data, as a 2016 study found.

Microsoft detailed the update in a blog post this week, adding a checkbox labeled “Convert continuous…

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