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If you're interested in creating a quick visual representation of data without creating a full-fledged chart, you want to be looking at Excel's feature called Sparklines. We've got some data here in columns D through P. If we select data like this, as we often do in Excel, we do see the Quick Analysis button pop-up. Let's click it and there's the choice called Sparklines. There are three kinds of Sparklines. Actually, one is a Line, and we see the preview already or Column or Win/Loss, which in this case we will not use, possibly Column or Line, so just click Line.
What do we have here? That's a depiction of what's happened over these 12 months. When these are selected, we have a Sparkline Tools ribbon and a Design Tab, and so we might want to make some quick changes here. Nothing wrong with that really, but maybe this will look better if we change the Sparkline Color possibly even the Weight, meaning the width of this. So now maybe that's a bit more prominent. So we get a quick read on the data here. In this case too, it might make more sense if we use our Zoom slider bar, zoom in a bit to see what's happening there.
Now, to enhance this, you might also want to consider on the Design Tab, showing just the High Point or the High Points and the Low Points, maybe all the points, the term is Markers like that, looking a bit crowded. That might look a little better, if we go back to Sparkline Color and perhaps change the Weight of this to be a little bit thinner, looks a bit better that way. So we can quickly see what's going on during this particular set of data here. Another option which we saw briefly, and we can get to it on the Design Tab here, is to change this to be a column and that might make sense too.
We do have the High and Low Points selected, maybe not as necessary now, but that too gives us a reasonable visual depiction of the data. Now, at certain times, the data you're selecting doesn't automatically fit into the quick analysis ability to create Sparklines. So suppose for example, we wanted a Sparkline here to show what's been happening. Now, here, the data is oriented vertically. If you choose the box here and go to Sparklines, the choice here comes up to be nothing. It tries to put the data on the right, so let's not do that.
We've got our data selected, then we can go to the Insert tab and choose Sparklines, this time we use a Line as well. Let's start with Line. It asks us, where do we want this to be? We've selected the data that's the source, where do we want the Sparklines to be placed? We'll click in cell B13. click OK and there it is. Organized differently and perhaps not as commonly seen this way as we saw over here, but nevertheless, that's a reasonable visual depiction of what's happened to these numbers over this nine-month period, and here too, you might want to consider making that thicker.
Now, we've got some other data off to the right here and this has negatives in it, so let's consider putting in Sparklines here; but this time, let's explore by way of Insert and Sparklines, possibly Win/Loss because we've got negatives in the entry here. How might this look? Here, somewhat differently than the previous example, I selected the area where the lines are going first, so that's already selected, but now it's asking me where is the source of the data? So clicking in the upper panel, then selecting these cells right here and then clicking OK gives us this look.
The red, of course, represents the negatives as we see them here. Depending upon the nature of the data, these might be a better choice. By the way, if you make the column wider, it's easier to read perhaps, but we always have that right when we're doing these to consider how this might look as a Column or as a Line. Now, here's something you want to be a little bit careful with, the idea that you can change the meaning of this--not by changing the values, that would be completely unfair and perhaps illegal--but look what happens here if we make this column wider.
It tends to flatten out the changes that we're seeing. We could also go back to column Q, by the way, try it over there, it's going to have greater implications over there for that previous set of data we were using. Let's change this by way of the Design Tab to Lines, and then possibly make this wider; and that gives us a completely different picture--as I press Ctrl+Z-- as to what we saw here. Here's another possible option, although less likely. If I select rows 4 through 7 and make them taller, watch those lines change, and that certainly accentuates the idea that there's been a lot of change through this period.
So making columns wider or narrower and rows taller or shorter, does change the impact of what we're showing here with these Sparklines--so think out those issues a bit. I'm going to press Ctrl+Z here a few times to return these to the previous display. Let's go back to these again too. The idea here with these pluses and minuses, if we are choosing Lines and that certainly is an option, we might also want to consider on the Design tab here, choosing Axis.
If we show the axis, that accentuates the idea that we have crossed the "zero boundary". So, we don't necessarily have to use the markers. We can certainly do that or the negative points. Use the markers maybe or maybe not, but we do see where the data falls below the line. The idea here is, with Sparklines, we want to get a quick, good, visual depiction of the data in question without necessarily showing a large chart and this gives us more freedom within a worksheet here, to show other sets of data as well. With this data here, it may or may not make sense, but you might consider putting Sparklines below the data.
Now here Lines perhaps wouldn't be as good, but we can check this out and decide. After selecting the data here, Insert Tab, Lines and the Source Data--the Data Range, this data right here--and OK. Now, we see a depiction of each one of these. So what we're seeing here of course is reflected right here. The difference here is, and this could be considered actually better, showing line charts across different regions, as if they were somehow connected, in a certain sense is misleading, but showing lines here--and in each case it's about years from 2008 through 2012--perhaps this is a better use of the idea that the data flows from year to year.
So even though we're not seeing any indicator on these actual Sparklines as to what the various points mean the points here mean different year entries for Northeast and Northwest and the other regions as we click across here. But the lines here, I don't think you'd really want to connect them, so I think you can make a strong case for saying, "Lines are not the best choice here, maybe columns are better". So you can see the variations here and the idea behind Sparklines, a quick visual representation of data in a single cell.
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