5 Free MS Excel Add-ins for Data Analysis

Excel is widely accepted as a feature rich data analysis tool, sometimes also referred to as a number cruncher. Its user friendly interface and available help makes it one of the most acceptable tools around the world. Excel bundles data manipulation features with statistical and mathematical functions which are utilized for qualitative analysis. Whenever I think of doing any computation or analysis, Excel comes to my mind first because of its varied functionalities.

There are various add-ins for Excel which makes your data analysis quite easy. You can utilize any of the following Excel Add-ins based on your data and analytical requirements irrespective of whether you are a researcher, a student or a business man. A number of data analysis tools are accessible via Data → Analysis → Data Analysis. If this option is not visible you may need to first install these add-ins by selecting Office Button → Excel Options → Add-Ins in Excel 2007 or File → Help → Options → Add-Ins in Excel 2010/2013, and clicking the Go button at the bottom of the window.

Excel Add-ins


Let us see some of these add-ins for data analysis, not in any particular order:

1. Solver Add-in

Solver falls under the category of What-if Analysis tools which can solve problems by enabling a target cell to achieve some goal. It solves a problem by adjusting a number of input cells according to a set of criteria or constraints defined by user. Solver uses techniques from Operations Research to find optimal solutions for problems involving decision making where the goal of the problem is to maximize or minimize some target value.

Once Solver is added to Excel, it can be accessed from Data → Analysis → Solver. Linear Programming Problems can be solved using Solver given some decision variables and constraints on these variables.

Solver is provided by Microsoft with Excel 2007 and later for free.



2. Analysis Toolpak

Analysis Tookpak adds additional analysis functions such as statistics and engineering functions which are not available in Excel. You have to install the Analysis Toolpak in order to use these functions.

The ToolPak contains a number of powerful statistical tools which lets you analyze your data in greater detail. It can be used to perform descriptive analysis and allows you to understand the behaviour of data by offering you various tests including correlation and regression. Forecasting and Sampling options lets you draw conclusions out of the available data. After installation, Analysis Toolpak is available under Data → Analysis → Data Analysis.

Toolpak is also provided by Microsoft with Excel 2007 and later for free.



3. PowerPivot

PowerPivot lets you conduct powerful Business Intelligence (BI) on extremely large sets of data. Although other enterprise BI tools such as SAS and Business Objects are available, but in the form of Excel add-in PowerPivot has made life easier for those business users who are familiar with Excel and do not want to switch to other tools for carrying out business intelligence tasks.

Excel as such is able to handle data from external sources, but when it comes to establish relationship between the data obtained from these sources, it sometimes faces problems. PowerPivot supports data sources like Access, Oracle, SQL Server, Teradata, DB2, Sybase, Informix and even a simple text file. It lets you import data from variety of sources and allows combining them for further processing with addition of some new easy-to-use functions.

PowerPivot is provided by Microsoft with Excel 2013 for free and for earlier versions it is available for download from Microsoft Website.



4. Power Query

As the name suggests, Power Query is query driven add-in which supports data from external sources in variety of formats like csv files, databases including Oracle, SQL Server, Excel tables and data from URLs in the form of web pages. In addition to bringing in the data from multiple sources, it lets you transform and reshape your data making your data handling tasks easier.

Once a query is set up, it lets you perform many repetitive tasks with just few clicks like generating charts, data summaries and reports for data visualization and decision making. An interesting feature of Power Query is unpivoting which is referred to as normalizing your data back to tabular format. If you are an Excel user and are habituated to write macros to transform your data, you would really like to leave your traditional macros for Power Query as it is an easy alternative to VBA to do your job quickly without coding.

Power Query is provided by Microsoft with Excel 2016 for free and for earlier versions it is available for download from Microsoft Website.



5. Table Analysis Tools

Table Analysis Tools provided by Microsoft is a favorite choice for those who intend to work on complex data without having to worry about selecting and writing algorithms for data analysis. It not only allows you to understand the distribution and type of data you are working on, but also lets you configure complex parameters which is otherwise a difficult and time-consuming task. It sets the parameters based on your data to ensure that the results are valid.

While working on large amount of data, some of the challenging tasks are finding the most influencing parameter, handling missing data, dealing with outliers etc. All these challenges can be easily dealt using Table Analysis Tools’ features.

Table Analysis Tools


The simplicity, versatility and power of Excel have made it a popular choice for data analysis in addition to basic data computations. So, if you like to do financial modeling and analysis, budgeting, human resource planning, forecasting, product management etc. have a look at the numerous functions and add-ins offered by MS Excel.

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  60. Gary Zunie says:

    THANKS for the great Excel tools but would it be possible to hyperlink the Tool names to download or install site?

    • Excel Add-ins are supplementary programs which offer complex statistical and analysis facilities to you with more insight into your data. These are freely available with your MS Excel installation, you just have to load and activate them. As mentioned in the post, you can access these from Excel Options → Add-Ins in Excel 2007 or File → Help → Options → Add-Ins in Excel 2010/2013 under Excel Add-ins and/or COM Add-ins. If you Add-in is not listed there, you can click Browse to locate it. If not, you can also install your add-in from official website of Microsoft.

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