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Thanks to Sam Radakovitz, a Program Manager on the Excel team, for putting together this series on Sparklines.
For Excel 2010 we’ve implemented sparklines, “intense, simple, word-sized graphics”, as their inventor Edward Tufte describes them in his book Beautiful Evidence. Sparklines help bring meaning and context to numbers being reported and, unlike a chart, are meant to be embedded into what they are describing:
In the above example, the sales number alone gives you a single moment in time, but adding sparklines in the table, next to the numbers it’s describing, gives history and shows a pattern of sales. The sparklines aren’t floating on the grid of Excel like a chart does. They aren’t rows, column, or sheets away from the data. They are in the table giving context to the numbers, unobtrusively, and appear like text in the cell.
Sparklines in this table are displaying the win / loss record for a softball league … they can convey the entire season of each team in the league. From reading the sparklines we can tell ‘QPB Ballers’ lost their first game but never lost again, ‘Amazon Bats’ had a rough start but finished strong, and ‘Brusing Borders’ was inconsistent throughout the season.
For this first version of sparklines in Excel we wanted to do a couple of things:
Over the next week or two I’m going to review sparklines in Excel and cover how to create them, style them, adjust options for the axis and group, and give a few other tips and examples of using them in Excel … as well as introduce you to a book store demo file with a variety of different usages for sparklines in Excel:
Sweet! Now I won't have to create PDF files to share sparklines with people who don't use the same add-in I do.
Nice start... long way to go though.
You need to include Box Plots, Bullet Charts and whole lot of extra options like Bechhmark line for Bar chars
Horizontal Bar Charts...
Download the PDF manual and you will know what i mean
The Sparkline feature is very well architected. Love the group options. The ability to set the vertical axis min and max values the same for all sparklines in a group (*automatically*) is a feature that would be very useful for standard charts in a group.
Sam is on the money though. I'm disappointed by the absence of box plots and bullet chart sparklines - both potentially far more useful than win-loss in a business context.
For line sparklines, an average line and a shaded region indicating "normal" behavior (+/-3-sigma from average), are *extremely* important elements for providing context to the values in the sparkline.
Win-loss - Is there a reason why draws aren't considered (win-loss-draw)? Draws are often indicated by the absence of a bar.
Finally, it would have been nice to have a hyperlink option so that when you click a sparkline, you can view the data behind the sparkline, or perhaps a more detailed chart. You can approximate this behavior by placing a transparent shape over a sparkline and adding a hyperlink to the shape, but this requires extra work.
@sam: You are so right! They also need to add kitchen sink type sparklines.
This looks like a good start, much better than the simpler data bars that came with 2007. Sam and Colin are right that the implementation is as yet incomplete, but guys, they're on the right track.
5 ago i wrote the Tool that integrated Excel with Groove to provide true, real time, co-edit of excel workbooks - was tough enough given the features in excel then - now they just upped the bar :-)
Jon, yep. My comments on sparklines(and all my subsequent comments regarding feature enhancements) are intended as food for thought for Excel 15, since at this point, Office 14 is a done deal feature-wise.
Speaking of the data bar feature, I'm quite impressed by how well it's implemented in the new release. Most of the solicited feedback has been taken into account.
I just installed the technical preview, which went very smoothly. The new interface is cleaner than 2007's: less chart junk in the ribbon, and it may have been shrunk a bit.
I did notice one labor saving feature that was added, or rather reinstated. You can now double click on a chart element, and cause the format dialog for that element to open. So as you say, they've heard the 57 billion complaints and have tried to make amends.
Of course, even if they eliminated the 57 billion complaints, users would turn around and complain 57 billion other ways.
Jon, less chart junk in the ribbon? Apart from the new Draft Mode option on the right of the Design tab, the chart commands are identical to those in Excel 2007!
I made a number of observations regarding charts but hadn't noticed the "new" double-click feature - thanks. However, there're still four tabs just to format markers and pretty much all of your Excel 2007 chart complaints are intact.
Solid fill for "Data Bars" and Zero Length Bar for Zero Values make Data bars usable and becomes a Sparkline
Weel i agree with Colin , about the chart ribbon "Apart from the new Draft Mode option on the right of the Design tab, the chart commands are identical to those in Excel 2007". I would expect something new in the chart arena, like the add-in that Bonavista has "Chart Tamer", very useful ...
Althought the sparkline feature is very well recieved, they still need more work. Bullet Charts is a must !!
What I meant is that the ribbon is cleaner, with less ugly gray gradient and fewer borders. I didn't think they made many changes to the actual content and layout of the tabs. I haven't really had time to make a judgment about its usability. The whole feel of the Office button is different, partly good, but I exited Excel accidentally when I thought I was exiting the dialog thing.
The double-click thing was a pleasant observation, I didn't make any other pleasant observations, like reduced tabs and clicking and more visible options. I guess I'll be able to market a UI supplement to 2007 and 2010. Woo-hoo!
I wonder why double click on a shape/picture does not bring up the format dialog....like in Oh you know there used to be a user friendly product called 2003....
@sam: You are so right! They also need to add kitchen sink type sparklines."
Biff, whoever you are, quit using my name.