Many of you will be familiar with Excel as the basic number cruncher and chart generator. Were you aware however that it can also automatically bring back company information from searching financial sites, translations which can be inserted into cells and complete web searches using Bing? And all this can be done without even leaving Excel. Allow me to explain!

The research pane can be accessed by pressing the Alt button on the keyboard and clicking on a cell. On the right hand side of the screen is the research pane. This can also be accessed by going to the Review tab on the Excel ribbon and selecting the Research button. In the first box you should enter whatever you would like to research. In this example, we will use GOOG which is the stock name for Google Inc.

In the drop down list underneath this box is a range of things you can use to search the value. Under All Business and Financial Sites select Thompson Gale Company Profiles. Click the green arrow next to the value you typed in and a range of results should appear. There should be a list of various Google companies along with their company information such as revenue and employees. Under each company information set is a link to read the full company profile. Clicking this will take you to the internet site which gives further information on the company. If you require some of the information for your spread sheet then you can simply copy and paste the data.

Financial information is not the only thing you can research. There is a translation research facility. Type in the word you want to translate and then choose Translation which is located under the All Reference Books section. Excel will automatically request that you choose the 'translate from' language and the 'translate to' language from the drop down lists. If there is only one translation word offered then an insert button will appear. The user can insert the translation directly into a specific cell on a work sheet. If there are more options then you can copy and paste the one that you would like to use.

As well as translation, Encarta which is an encyclopaedia service can be used to bring up information on the chosen subject or word. Simply changing the reference book option from the drop down list will allow automatically update the research information results in the pane.

Rather than leaving Excel to search for a topic on the internet, type it into the box and then select Bing from the list in the research pane. Bing is a Microsoft search engine, similar to Google. The result format is similar to Google, giving a list of web sites along with a short intro of information on the site. The user can then click on the site required and the web site will open.

The point of the research pane is to make it easier for users to research particular things they need in Excel rather than having to open a separate package such as Firefox or Windows Explorer and then finding the required site. Many people use Excel for financial purposes so that is one of the focuses on the research areas, although it is not limited to looking at financial information.

There are options to update and alter the research books on the list. At the bottom of the research pane is the link called 'Research Options.' Click this and a list of all possible research options is available in a list format. A checkbox allows the user to select and deselect whichever research options required. When the OK button is clicked, the list is immediately updated.

When using the internet, many people add parental controls to prevent young people accessing inappropriate sites. As Excel should not be a loophole to allow young people to access such material from a different platform, parental controls are available. Open the Research Options and click the Parental Controls button. Check the checkbox to turn the controls on and add a memorable password to prevent a child turning the controls off. If a child then types 'Porn' into the Excel research pane for example, they will not be able to access inappropriate sites.