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Improved data grid for charts in Word and PowerPoint

This post is brought to you by Kevin Donovan, a Program Manager in the Graphics and Data Visualizations Team.

One of the overlooked improvements that we added to charting in the new Office applications has to do with the “data grid” shared between Excel and PowerPoint/Word.

Data Grid

We introduced the “data grid” in our Charting Overview for 2013 blog post, but we wanted to explain a few more details and benefits in this post.  One of the key objectives for this feature in Office 2013 was to make the grid easier to use, and strike a balance with exposing the right amount of Excel user interface that was necessary for when users are working with charts in PowerPoint and Word.  In the new Office, we focused on miniaturizing the grid and making it a lot easier to use.   Here are some details on how we achieved this.

The data grid revealed

The data grid in the new Office offers a more concise and simple integration experience between the chart and the data brokered by Excel. As with prior versions, you have two ways to enter data for your chart. If you insert the chart from within the application, you can edit its data within a small window that we place adjacent to the chart (either above or below, depending on your app’s proximity to the edge of your monitor)–this is the data grid. Or you can actually open Excel and perform more complex operations there.

Data Grid right click menu

If you insert a chart in PowerPoint or Word, the grid appears automatically. If the user closes the grid, there are two ways to get it back.

1. You can right-click anywhere in the chart area (which is what the screen shot above shows).

2. You can use the ribbon button, which looks like this:

Data Grid Ribbon option

When you see the data grid, what we’ve done is spun up an Excel background process, but without chrome or add-ins, which is why it loads so quickly. So, even if you already have Excel running when you edit chart data in Word or PowerPoint, the data grid will run as a separate process. Incidentally, if you choose the “Edit Data in Excel 2013” option, we open up a new Excel window with the chart data pre-populated, but we won’t start another Excel process. Instead, we’ll just open a new application window because it allows users to take advantage of Excel’s richness, such as copying and pasting formulas between workbooks.

When you select the “Edit Data” option, we provide a very simple window that shows your data, along with a few menu options that help you to navigate things:

Data Grid above the chart

You’ll also notice that we use the colored outlines (sometimes called colored foils) to indicate which data represents your chart. And while those foils aren’t necessarily new to Office 2013, combining them with the data grid really makes it easy to change series and category selections. You simply grab the corner and either select or de-select as necessary.

Data Grid expand selection

Of course, you can use the data grid to add or delete values, series, and categories to/from your chart as well – without having to go back to Excel. If you need to go to Excel to work with the data more directly (e.g. create formulas, etc.), you can select the Excel icon in the top of the data grid. This will open Excel and allow you to edit or create data in very precise ways:

Data Grid edit in Excel option

Once you are finished working with the values in Excel, simply close that Excel instance, and the entered value will appear in your chart. And, again, getting the grid back is really simple: either right click in the chart, and choose, Edit Data, or select the same option in the ribbon.

For users who have been using charts in PowerPoint and Word for a long time, you know that Excel services the data behind them, but getting to, and changing, that data has never been easier than it is in 2013. As always, we value your feedback and really believe that you will agree that the changes we made to the data grid will make your charting work much simpler.

–Kevin Donovan, Program Manager, Office Graphics and Visualization Team

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