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Today's author, Ben Rampson, a Program Manager on the Excel team.
Customers who author charts in presentations and reports often spend a significant amount of effort modifying their charts to get them looking just the way they want. While the new Chart Style and Chart Layout features in Office 2007 provide some great one-click options to quickly alter the appearance of a chart, there are still times when one needs to modify a chart even further. A company policy may require that a chart use particular colors, a project may demand a necessary chart layout, or a complex chart may necessitate the setting of many specific element properties. While there is always a onetime cost required to set up a chart for the first time, there is an easy way avoid these costs in the future when you need to re-create a similar chart.
One frequently underutilized feature in charting is the Chart Template. A chart template allows a user to quickly save and reapply settings from a previously created chart. Chart templates are standalone .crtx files that can be applied in a similar manner as chart types. In addition to saving the chart type, template files also contain chart element setting and formatting information. This information includes settings such as line and fill properties, axis settings, and element placement.
It also should be noted that chart templates do not save customer data, preventing customer information from being copied and saved into template files (customer data includes: data point and series values, text on titles, etc.). Although data is not saved, the existence, formatting, and layout of all elements is stored in the template. Assume a template is created from a chart that contains a title. When the template is applied the resulting chart will have a title in same location and with the same formatting as the chart used to generate the template, however, the default text of "Title" will appear in the element since the title's data has not been stored in the template.
Steps to Create a Chart Template
Steps to Use a chart template
Creating this chart was simple and only required two steps, inserting a chart using the desired template and entering the title's text. This is a significantly easier process when compared to the list of steps I completed to build this chart for the first time. The finished chart:
Note that the above chart has fairly complex formatting and takes great advantage of the template feature; however, even templates with limited formatting can still save significant time in the chart creation process.
In summary, when creating a complex chart that you may use again in the future, remember to take advantage of chart templates. This powerful tool in charting can help you avoid duplicating effort and allows you to easily generate consistently formatted charts.
If you have any ideas on how we can improve chart templates in the future please feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments section.
The new templates are a big advance over the old chart galleries. Maybe it's my fault for poking around too uch, but I found the galleries to be fragile, and on more than one Office 2003 installation, the user galleries are completely hosed. The new tempate files ought to be robust, and having distinct files makes sharing them a snap.
Another way to handle chart "templates", particularly when the data requirements are complex, is to createe a workbook template with the chart and its data sheet. The user is assured of getting the chart right if they put the right data in the right place. This is harder to control if only the chart template is used. I especially like this approach in my programmatic charting utilities.
Wrt to charts,
1) The link between the final chart and the chart template isn't saved anywhere in the file (unless I have missed something obvious) so one can only conclude that it's impossible to keep chart templates and finished charts in sync. If I update the chart template, the change won't be reflected in the final chart.
2) While you bring the notion of chart templates which don't save a cache of the chart's underlying data, I would like to bring what I regard as a design issue in the file format. When you add a trenline or error bars to a chart, the said elements will only show up if the chart data source has a stored cache of values written in it (i.e. strCache, numCache, ...). Why is that? The trendline and error bars should show up just based on the corresponding trendline and errorbars XML elements, not the cache of values.
3) As for chart improvements, one would want extensibility everywhere in the object model (by object model, I mean COM as well as the XML fragment). It should be possible to write a custom chart subsystem that gets rendered when the file is opened.
4) OWC for 64-bit
Thanks for sharing this valuable info. I would like to know how to have make Column & line custom chart in Excel 2007. In 2003 version it was easy to do but in 2007 if I change chart type of one series, chart type of all series changes. Pls help
These are great, but I havent been able to create any cascading Gantt charts for a project timeline that I would like to put up for a high level presentation for start and end dates and present the project status.
Have to resort to Project which has limited visual appeal.