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Making Excel Graphics Clear

I think it was my undergraduate adviser who first introduced me to the work of Edward Tufte and basic concepts of the graphical display of data. He was also the first to convince me that MS Excel was just about the worst program with which to generate scientific data graphics. The noise: information ration was quite high. I learned how to change the background colors, change the axes and gridlines etc.. in compliance with good graphical design.

Recently, a discussion of excel graphics appeared on Tufte’s discussion website, and there was a link to a visual basic macro to clean up bad excel graphics! In a post at Juice Analytics from April 2006, entitled “Fixing Excel charts: Or why cast stones when you can pick up a hammer” there is a link to an excel add-in that cleans up standard charts, allowing you to save a great deal of time on doing these things one at a time.

This is especially useful for older versions of excel (pre 2007) that have especially awful graphics. Excel 2007 (that I am currently using) has a standard graphic that isn’t all that bad, not great yet, but much better than previous versions of excel. I was going to to do a before and after image of an excel chart using this add-on, but with 2007, they were pretty much the same. So if you use an older version of excel and want to try it out, send me a before and after shot and I will post it.

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