Excel Chart Advisor Prototype Simplifies Graphs

By David Ringstrom

Excel 2007 users have a new tool in their arsenal: the Chart Advisor from the Microsoft Office Labs — a new proving ground for potential new Office features. Although this tool is a prototype, you may find it helpful in your daily work. This add-in for Excel utilizes an advanced rules engine to analyze your data, and then rank chart suggestions based on their respective score. Remember, this tool only works with U.S. English version of Excel 2007.

Free trial available: You can download a free 60 day trial of Office 2007.

Before you rush off and download the Chart Advisor, do note the caveats listed in Figure 1. You cannot install Chart Advisor without agreeing to these conditions. Also, some early versions of the Chart Advisor caused Excel to hang or crash, but those problems were quickly rectified by the Office Labs team. The tool worked without issue during my testing.


Figure 1: Read the terms of the Chart Advisor closely before proceeding with the installation.

Once you've downloaded the tool and accepted the various conditions and agreements, you'll notice a new Office Labs section within the Insert tab of the ribbon, as shown in Figure 2. The next step is to put some sample data in a blank worksheet, such as Table 1.

Figure 2: A new Chart Advisor icon will appear in the Insert tab of the Excel 2007 ribbon.


Chain Product Cases Sold Total Sales
Fruit R Us Oranges 6,168 61,680
Fruit R Us Apples 6,079 85,106
Fruit R Us Kiwi 6,058 66,638
Fruit R Us Bananas 6,868 75,548
Fruit R Us Mixed Berries 1,996 29,940
Oranges 7,818 93,816
Bob's Fruit Apples 1,565 21,910
Bob's Fruit Kiwi 9,967 99,670
Bob's Fruit Bananas 9,842 98,420
Bob's Fruit Mixed Berries 8,993 89,930

Table 1: You can copy and paste this sample data into a blank worksheet for use with the Chart Advisor.

Once you've done so, click on a single cell within your table of sample data, and then click the Chart Advisor icon shown in Figure 2. The prompt shown in Figure 3 will appear briefly, and then you'll see the chart advisor itself in Figure 4. As you can see, each chart is ranked based on a score that appears in the lower right-hand corner. Hover over each chart to see a larger version.


Figure 3: The Chart Advisor is a proof of concept tool that may later become a formal part of Excel.


Figure 4: The Chart Advisor makes up to five recommendations based upon your data.

Once you select a chart, you can use the Modify section of the Chart Advisor to add or remove fields. As you can see in Figure 5, the tool informs you if you inadvertently remove a critical field from your chart. You can also use the Filter section, shown in Figure 6, to limit the data shown in your chart. Click the Insert Chart button when you're happy with your chart.

Expert tip: Right-click on the chart and choose Move Chart to relocate the chart to another worksheet, or its own chart sheet.


Figure 5: The Chart Advisor helps you head off potential mistakes.


Figure 6: You can limit the data shown in your chart without having to copy a subset to a new location.

Read more articles by David Ringstrom. 

About the author:

David H. Ringstrom, CPA heads up Accounting Advisors, Inc., an Atlanta-based software and database consulting firm providing training and consulting services nationwide. Contact David at david@acctadv.com or follow him on Twitter. David speaks at conferences about Microsoft Excel, and presents webcasts for several CPE providers, including AccountingWEB partner CPE Link.

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