3 ways to best use the Smart Lookup feature in your spreadsheet


by Kara Hiltz

Application: Microsoft Excel 2016/365

Operating System: Microsoft Windows

Microsoft Office’s new Smart Lookup feature—which lets you access and explore online information from within your application—may seem inapplicable to Excel spreadsheets. Sound like more of a Word feature? Think again. We’ve discovered a few ways that Excel2016/365 users can benefit from Smart Lookup.

To get the most from the Smart Lookup feature in Excel 2016/365, we’ll:

  • Find out more about a stock symbol in seconds.
  •  Look up addresses and phone numbers for directions or property information.
  • Explore Excel functions and related terminology when you get stuck or need a refresher.

One of the new features in Excel 2016/365 boosts your ability to look up information right from within Excel instead of having to open a web browser. Smart Lookup opens a sidebar pane on the right side of your Excel window,displaying Bing Search results, Wikipedia results, and definitions (if applicable) for the text you’ve selected, as shown in Figure A.

Excel users may believe that Smart Lookup is for Word users or PowerPoint users only—people who are writing and may need more information on a word or phrase. But if you dismiss Smart Lookup as irrelevant, you’re missing out on a few timesaving ways to get online information about your Excel data.

In this article, we’ll go over the ins and outs of Smart Lookup and give you three great ways to use the feature in Excel effectively. Let’s get started.



The Smart Lookup pane displays with web search information relevant to the selected text or cell data—in this case, a stock symbol.

What is Smart Lookup?

The Smart Lookup feature is meant to bring more information into Office applications without having to take time scouring the Internet. The Smart Lookup pane that opens when you select text and activate the feature includes two tabs: Explore and Define.

By default, the Explore tab displays when the pane opens. When you switch to the Define tab, you get the definition of a word according to Oxford Dictionaries. You will also have the option to listen to the word’s pronunciation, as shown in Figure B. The definition may include the word origin as well as definitions for different parts of speech, such as noun, verb, adjective, etc.

Note:The first time you use the Smart Lookup feature, you will likely see a warning about the fact that some of your workbook data may be accessible online. Essentially, you’re allowing Bing Search to enter the text you select into its search engine. You have the option to read through the policies and privacy information for more details if you choose. Excel will only display this warning once.



Click on the megaphone icon in order to hear the word you’ve selected spoken out loud.

Find up-to-date stock information

One of the ways you can use the Smart Lookup feature in Excel is to find out more about stock symbols. If you use Excel to track investments, you may sometimes need information that is more up to date than what is in your spreadsheet. Stock data changes minute by minute. The ability to get online stock information right in Excel is priceless.

To find out more information about a stock symbol:

  1. Open an Excel spreadsheet that contains stock symbols.
  2. Right-click on a cell containing a stock symbol that you’d like to know more about.
  3. Choose Smart Lookup from the shortcut menu, as shown in Figure C, to open the Smart Lookup pane.

The Smart Lookup pane will display information about the stock sym[...]

Join NowClose
Return to the ExcelSkillsSociety's homepage