AH Google Sheets

Smart Autofill Add-On Can Predict Google Sheets Missing Values

October 13, 2014 - Written By John Anon

If you were under any delusion that the internet is not getting smarter (of course you weren’t) and in particular Google services and products then look no further. You are probably aware of Google Sheets which in brief is Google’s spreadsheet offering. It now seems today Sheets received a decent and interesting add-on. This new addition to Sheets has been dubbed Smart Autofill and in short is a perfect description. This new add-on in its most basic sense will help fill-in incomplete values and information. The most interesting aspect is that the information is not prior-known to Smart Autofill. Google already uses an ‘Auto-fill’ feature (days of the week, dates and number orders) although this information is already ‘understood’ by the software. As a result, the standard Autofill  is merely replicating the missing values over and over again in a predictable and expected manner. In contrast the new Smart Autofill analyses the other information within the Sheets file to make educated predictions on what the likely missing values will be.

In Smart Autofill’s introduction by Google the example given to highlight its use and abilities comes in the form of a used car file. In the images below Google have constructed a Sheets file containing data on a selection of used cars including year of first registration, manufacturer, mileage, type of vehicle and number of doors. In addition, the file also contains a price column which is where a number of the missing or unknown values reside. Smart Autofill uses the rest of the file data to make comparisons. These comparisons are then further used to predict (to some degree) how much the missing-value vehicles are worth, automatically entering the values. Now I can already here you shouting! Yes, there is a massive margin of error possible and especially in terms of used cars as there are additional factors like ‘condition’ not taken into consideration. And you are right! But that said, the proof-of-concept is still there. The new add-on is capable of at least best-guessing the missing values.

Now before you all panic that all your Sheet files with missing values will automatically start including these ‘guesses’ then don’t worry. Google have made sure the feature has to be manually activated after installation. If you are interested than once the add-on is installed – select “Add-ons”, followed by “Smart Autofill”, followed by “Start”. At this point a sidebar will pop-up. Now is the time to select the block of data (to be analysed so Google can ‘learn’). Once selected, you can highlight the target column (missing value column) before hitting “Start”. Google…or specifically Smart Autofill will do the rest. So what do you think? Is this a useful feature besides the obvious margin-of-error issues? Will you be using? Or is it just a little too weird for you? No matter what let us know.