Experiments with Excel Sparklines
Microcharts within your spreadsheets will be incorporated within the next release of Excel. John Stokdyk looks at what Sparklines could add to your reporting arsenal.
After doing a quick tour of the new layout in the Excel 2010 Technical Preview, the first thing I wanted to look at more closely was the new Sparklines micro-charting feature that has been added.
Not bothering to be detained by any of the help or training materials, I selected a block of sample data, clicked the Insert tab, selected a line-based micro chart option from the Sparklines button and then scrolled down the adjacent column to define where the lines should appear.
Within a second or two, a set of in-cell graphical indicators appeared alongside each row of the relevant data. In place of the lines option, I could also have chosen Columns or Win/Loss formats from the Sparklines drop-down menu.
A table of figures needs to be carefully interpreted to extract meaning - once you represent the numbers as bar charts or trendlines, their meaning becomes so much clearer.
However my early experiments with a sample of Fantasy Football data bumped into a couple of frustrations. The measurement trend I wanted to show was best displayed by Sparklines, but it soon became evident they were based on a relative scale that blurred rather than clarified the players’ relative performances. The axis characteristics needed to be tweaked in a separate Design tab on the menu ribbon.