Friday, October 27, 2006

More In-Cell Charting - Handy Little Add-In Called SparkMaker

I guess you could say the Excel_Geek's on a bit of an in-cell charting kick.

A couple weeks back, though, after reading one of my recent posts on in-cell charting, I reader shot me some information about a handy little Excel add-in called SparkMaker from a German company called Bissantz & Company GmbH.

Now, I think I've said it before, but I'll say it again: one of the single most useful applications for in-cell charting is dashboard reporting -- you know, cramming a lot of trend-type data onto a single page view to give users a quick glance at their overall operations. One thing I hadn't figured out how to do using the in-cell charting techniques I've described previously is how to get an entire trend series of data represented in a chart in a single cell. I mean, each of the "bars" you create in that way "lives" in its own cell. How can I get them all into one cell?

Meet SparkMaker. By using its own set of true type fonts and special functions, SparkMaker can do this in a heartbeat. Check out the image below (click it to open it larger in a new window):

I have an entire series of data that is important to me for trend analysis, though on my dashboard report, I really only need to see the current value, but it would be nice to also get an idea as to what the trend has been. Using SparkMaker, I create an in-cell line chart of the whole series of values. So I can see, "Nearly $49 million in revenues...nice...and it looks like we're on the upswing." All in two cells rather than having to derive it from a series of ten data points or using a big, clunky traditional Excel line chart.

Sparkmaker also does pie charts, which I really like for the same reason. How hard is it to get a traditional Excel pie chart small enough to fit nicely into a dashboard report? Hard. But with SparkMaker, it's a simple formula:


Change the font size and color as you like, even dynamically, using conditional formatting, like this (click it to open it larger in a new window):

As I'm typing this I'm thinking of other ways I'd use these pie charts...

Now, at 199.95 (USD) for the "Pro" edition and 59.95 (USD) for the "Basic", SparkMaker is not free, but they do offer a try-it-before-you-buy-it free trial, and I recommend giving it a spin.



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