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.