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Here is the second guest post from Matthew Kotler, a lead program manager on the SmartArt team.
In the last post, I presented an overview of SmartArt Graphics. In this post, I'll show how to take the basic SmartArt Graphic that you have created and format it to make it really stand out (or subtly fit in, depending on your goal). Just like cells, tables, and shapes, SmartArt Graphics build on the rich functionality of document themes. When you insert a SmartArt Graphic into your spreadsheet (or document or presentation) you can be assured that it will match the rest of the content on the sheet. Like each of these other objects, if you change the theme of the spreadsheet, the look of the SmartArt Graphic will change.
SmartArt Graphics also includes two galleries for quickly changing the look of a graphic on the Design tab under SmartArt Tools.
(Click to enlarge)
The first gallery provides a range of different stylistic options including different shape fills, line styles, shadows, and 3D effects. Like many of the other galleries across Office 2007, this gallery has automatic live preview to show what your graphic could look like with one of the quick styles applied.
Here's the same SmartArt Graphic with a few styles applied:
The second gallery provides a range of different color options that can be selected for a SmartArt Graphic, each one applying one or more theme color in a different way to the graphic.
And here's that same SmartArt Graphic with a few color variations applied:
The goal of each of these galleries, combining a SmartArt Graphic with an array of styles and color variations, is to allow you to create a unique visual.
But, if the built in galleries are not enough to give you the look you want, almost all elements of a SmartArt Graphic are customizable. SmartArt Graphics are built on the same foundation as regular shapes in Excel. Therefore, if you do not like the automatic text sizing, you can override it by manually applying a different font size. If the quick style gallery does not have the right combination of fills, lines, and effects then you can apply an individual shape style or fully customize the shape yourself. If the size and position of a shape on the worksheet is not the way you want it, then you can just move the shape around or resize it. The formatting tab within "SmartArt Tools" provides an entry point to many of these customizations:
Even after applying any of these customizations you can still go back and change to a different layout and SmartArt Graphics will attempt to bring those customizations forward. I recommend saving your customizations for the end but this gives you the flexibility to make sure that the graphic communicates what you want it to. Just in case you realize you have gone too far with customizations, there's always the Reset Graphic button back on the Design tab to take you back to a happy place.
SmartArt Graphics gives you the tools to quickly and effectively communicate your message with formatting options that ensure a professional and unique result.
Can the text or numbers in the art be cell references?
Can the text or numbers in the art be a database query?
Can a chart or graph be inside the art?
If so, if the cell references, database values, or the chart changes, does the it update the SmartArt in real time?
It's all very nice (leaps and bounds ahead of anything else from Offices past), but I'm concerned that the world will be deluged with documents, presentations and so forth that all have the same kind of SmartArt treatment. I imagine you've also considered this possibility, but how do you plan to keep the SmartArt styles fresh as time goes by? Are there plans to make new styles available periodically as pluggable downloads from the Office website? Do you expect 3rd party developers to offer this kind of thing? Or are you taking a different approach?
ADD and Joseph (re: your comment earlier on the overview blog post) - Unfortunately, at this point the shapes within a SmartArt graphic cannot be cell references. This functionality is certainly something we would like to eventually support. Actually populating the graphic from a database query is not something we are planning to support in SmartArt graphics. However, I encourage you to take a look at Eric Rockey's blog on Visio, for example blogs.msdn.com/.../500395.aspx. Visio is really the best place to go for this functionality if the product is available to you / your organization. Finally, charts and graphs cannot be embedded today inside a SmartArt graphic except as a picture.
Mal - There is a related discussion going on in the comments on Jensen Harris's blog at blogs.msdn.com/.../598891.aspx. The short answer is that we definitely plan to extend the set of layouts for SmartArt graphics from the Office Online webiste and hope 3rd parties will as well. Given that styles are extensible as well we hope that as the need arises people will produce new styles. Ultimately, however, the built in styles and customizability of SmartArt graphics should provide you with a lot of flexibility to remain unique even before you have to download new styles and color variations.
Spreadsheets are rather different beasts than word processors and presentation processors. Spreadsheets' main strength is their programmability. Inability to generate text within these new graphics via cell references will reduce its utility in Excel much more than in Word or PP.
Static artwork may have it's place in spreadsheets, but the keyword is STATIC. Will it at least be possible to change the text within these graphics using macros setting object properties, or will it require SendKeys?
Fortunately, this looks like it's only a presentation mechanism, so it won't affect many spreadsheets.
I can't imagine you as a spreadsheet user/creator that "likes" this type of stuff.
It looks nice but does it really belong in a spreadsheet, especially if it can't be dynamically manipulated.
"I don't know how to count the unique suppliers that delivered to store #22 the first week of May but I know how to draw some nice graphics"
That seems to be where things are headed.
If Smart[?!]Art graphics are objects with caption properties, then even if they can't autocalc they can be fed text through Calculate event handlers. It's only if they're not accessible as objects that they become a big PITA, requiring flaky SendKeys macros to modify them programatically.
To paraphrase what I said before, at least this is presentation eyewash, so if it isn't fed by recalculation, at least it won't slow it down.
Still, the respondent in the first Smart[?!]Art thread had it right: if you want this sort of thing, use Visio. If you have to show it in a spreadsheet, use Visio to create the images, copy 'em, and paste 'em as pictures into Excel.
To be honest, I do use the occasional text box and arrow from the Drawing toolbox. But then those text boxes do have Formula properties, so can be fed from cells. I guess Smart[?!]Art is just another of those 'version 1' features. That or someone higher up than David believes spreadsheet users and developers are just dying to get more PP-like features in Excel.
Smart or not, is this Art?!
The emphasis on finding new and different ways of adding flair to your documents is distressing. Productive environments separate data from presentation (consider Textile and/or Markdown) and let people concentrate on content.
Users are going to burn tons of hours twiddling all these different options--I'm sure I won't be able to help myself, for that matter. Result: organizations full of users concentrating on their own self-expression not on communicating clearly with each other.
The situation with graphs is even worse, as Stephen Few has recently pointed out.
I'd be eager to talk to you more about this. I did a podcast with Jon Udell a short time back on this topic.
".... PP-like features in Excel"
I am a big fan of Excel... and use it for most of the office tasks... not an Expert like you but still...
I rarely use word/ppt/acess or any of the other office programs.
If I switch off gridlines, make the work sheet in to a graph paper.... to me it works like a word processor and lets me do what I would have done in word with the added advantage of having tables with calculations in the same sheet
Once upon a time long long ago ..Excel 5 had an option to insert a slide show ! - got removed in Excel 97 (along with sound notes !)
Most of the stuff you can do in PPT can be done in XLS.... yes the animations and effects would require some coding... but is it can be done...
To me its just another product Microsoft wants to push for an extra buck. (Office professional)
Should the Excel team tinker the product a bit more (well more than a bit) there is no reason for a seperate database program.... but that's just my thought....
Well e-mail capabilites were available in all office programs from office 2000(even 97- via code), they just need to define E-mail folders outside outlook...
May be we will have one office program...Excess ...and get options like ...open file in Database mode...or insert letter template....or insert Slide show...send receive mail... !
Now that would be office integration....
Yes, I can see it clearly now :)
Nice to know, we have WordArt still in 2007.
It would be great an option to copy the style (color,3D setup, fonts, etc.) of a IGX or a Graph and paste it to another IGX/Graph object like a Photoshop Copy Layer Style feature, because there're to many options to change the visuals appaerances of new objects make them difficult to change in many IGX/Graph. I know that I can copy and paste the entire object and change the values or text, etc. But what happen if I have 10 IGX objects or much worst a Graph with a personalized 3D view, text, etc. in a document and I want to change the apareance of them?.
We seem to disagree on Word. Word processors are simply different beasts than spreadsheets, and the former have their uses (I wouldn't want to try generating an index for a hodge podge of ranges disguised as prose).
As for PP, from my perspective the only purpose served by presentation processors is spin, spin, spin. If all presentation processors became extinct tomorrow (why not today?!), the world would be a better place.
Finally, Access. There's a lot to be said against MDB as a database file format, so in that sense it could be argued fairly that Access serves no good purpose. But Access can also serve as just a frontend onto server-based RDBMS's. That's functionality Excel doesn't have built in, and not all database queries roll immediately into calculations (e.g., mail merge for form letters, not that I like form letters, but I suppose they do have their uses), so it's unclear to me whether it'd be a good idea or a very, very bad idea to roll Access's DBMS frontend functionality into Excel.
Now that someone else has brought up Access, will Access 2007 provide as many fields per table as XL12 will provide columns per worksheet? If not, we're in for more fun & games making Office products interoperate.
A very fine ideal for a lot of bussinees out there and for home to.It cut time in have.
This is a great discussion (and apologies for taking a few days to reply to all of these comments). As I said previously, unfortunately we do not have access to cell references this release (nor do we have a read-write object model). If you do try playing with SendKeys, I'd be very interested to hear if that works. However, to be clear, the scenario of updating a SmartArt graphic through changes in the spreadsheet (or in any other type of document) was not a focus of the design for this release. If it is access to data that you are looking for in your graphics then, yes, Visio is the best place to go if you have it available or if not you can, as Harlan said, link data to regular shapes.
I want to respond to two key points within this discussion. The first is that these graphics do not belong in a spreadsheet. Spreadsheets aren't all about just crunching and analysing data, they are used to communicate or figure out how to communicate that set of data as well. At the heart of it, aren't you analyzing the data in your spreadsheet either to learn something about the data yourself or to communicate something about it to others? A SmartArt graphic can help you find the best way to communicate that message.
The second related point is that this is an "emphasis on ... adding flair." People are always trying to find the best way to convey their ideas. One of the goals behind SmartArt graphics is not to just end up with some "nice graphics" but to make it easier to focus on the idea, the message, itself so that it does not get watered down or distorted in its conversion to a graphic. The Text pane associated with a SmartArt grpahic is specifically meant to separate out the data from the presentation and concentrate the user on that message. A user can just type in their text or data and the SmartArt graphic with lay out the shapes properly on the page. I really hope that the combination of this Text pane and the galleries in the UI will decrease the time people spend on graphics or if not at least increase the quality (not in terms of look but in terms of the meaning) of the final graphic.
Rather than dismissing the use of SmartArt graphics in Excel, I'd urge everyone to try them out in a spreadsheet and see if they do help better construct the message that's hiding behind all the numbers.