New Sparkline Features in MS Excel 2010

Sparklines can be defined as tiny graphs fitted into a single cell of the spreadsheet. It is more or less like a miniature form of a line or bar graph, which makes visual understanding of data very easy. Typically, sparklines are depicted as lines or bars at the end of the table showing the data.

In earlier versions of Excel, these sparklines were not native of MS excel and people had to use third party softwares to create them. Taking cue from that, Microsoft developers designed and incorporated the sparklines within the new version. The in-house sparklines of Excel come with many features. This option is available in the Insert tab.

Sparklines of Excel 2010

Since this features was wanted by many users, the sparklines for excel, were created with easy use options. The mini graphs look best when placed at the end of the data columns. So choose the last column of the spread sheet to insert the sparklines. Choose the sparklines to be lines or columns or win/loss representations.

A dialog box pops up where you have to enter the data range. Select the cells containing data that need to be represented in the sparkline miniature graphs. In the location range, select the cells in which the mini graphs need to be shown.

Once you hit the ok button, you might see weird graphs not showing the right representation. In that case,  got to Axis option and set it at General Axis type for the horizontal axis and Automatic for Each Sparkline for both vertical maximum and minimum.

After insertion, the style, colours and other visual appeal can be changed easily. Features such as high points, low points negatives, values, etc help to highlight the particular data that you want to visually highlight for the viewer. You can also change the line or bar’s colour.

Non native sparkline programs

Thirds party programs can install sparklines separately in previous versions. They have multiple features and options that Excel 2010 does not have.

When compared to third party sparkline softwares, the native sparklines are quicker in formatting, crisp when printed and each graph can be formatted independently. Few drawbacks are that, since this is a new feature, there are not many customizable options or types of charts available. This however can be expected with the next release of newer version of MS Excel.

Problems with Excel 2010 sparklines

Sparklines created in Excel 2010 won’t show in earlier version of Excel. That is, if you are using 2010 version and your client is using 2007 version, he or she cannot view these sparklines at all as the earlier versions do not support the new sparkline features.

That is the only real problem. Therefore, as an added option, using third party softwares to create sparklines for Excel might be a feasible option until more people are using Excel 2010 in majority.

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