Open your Excel Application and Plead for Forgiveness

Gramener’s Richie Lionell writes in defense of Excel

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I come from a tribe whose first brushes with data visualization began with Excel. It all started when my former boss in early 2011 said, “Have you heard of charts that fit into an Excel cell? Please can you find out what that is all about?” In-Cell charts were an eye-opener but thankfully my eyes were also opened to what one could do with shapes, colors & tweaked charts. The world of Python, D3.js, design & story telling then beckoned me and it was hard to resist. I took the plunge but in the overflow of joy that followed I haven’t left Excel behind.

Excel????? – People cringe and then I show them a few unconventional visuals we’ve created using Excel;

Visualizing Dry Days in India – 1977 to 2005

A 0.5 grid Lat-Long weather map of India we created on Excel cells – supported by VLOOKUP, IFERROR, a scrollbar & conditional formatting – is a major draw at our Dataviz trainings. It is a visualization of dry days in every 0.5 degree Lat-Long grid from 1977 to 2005. No images or shapes were used. Yup, no VBA too & created using Excel 2010.

How about using Excel for some story telling? This one is the story of Hollywood stars, the data coming from an Excel table.

Story Telling through Excel

No, the pictures of the celebrities are not images. They are Dingbat fonts (Ever wondered the use for Webdings & Wingdings?). No VBA here too, just the usual suspects – VLOOKUP, IFERROR – and a bunch of radio buttons.

Here’s a simulation of a chess game (Dingbats again).

Simulating a Chess Game in Excel

You can do all of the above using Excel 2007. Yes, you read that right. Now open your Excel application and plead for forgiveness. With this newfound respect for Excel you can now learn how to Visualize Sensex returns in Excel.

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