How to highlight details for better insight with sparkline charts in Excel

Sparklines are in-cell charts in Microsoft Excel which might be simple to create and intensely useful, however they are often extra insightful with only a few particular settings.


Picture: Paul Barnwell/Shutterstock

The latest article, How sparklines cope with non-numeric values in Excel exhibits you the way to keep away from pitfalls with non-numeric values within the information set in Microsoft Excel. The perfect protection is to verify there are not any non-numeric values in a price information set, however that is not all the time sensible, particularly in an imported or inherited sheet. But it surely’s an necessary step to make sure the validity of your information. On this article, we’ll proceed to work with sparklines, however we’re not trying to find errors, we’re exposing values you may in any other case miss! This an issue that is inherent to the sparkline charts themselves as a result of they’re so small. It is easy for necessary particulars to be misplaced within the larger image. On this article, I will present you a number of methods to make necessary particulars stand out.

SEE: 83 Excel ideas each consumer ought to grasp (TechRepublic)

I am utilizing Microsoft 365 on a Home windows 10 64-bit system, however you need to use earlier variations. On your comfort, you’ll be able to obtain the demonstration .xlsx file. Sparklines aren’t supported by the menu model, .xls. Excel On-line will show present sparklines if you open a workbook however you’ll be able to’t create or modify them on-line.

About sparklines

Sparklines have been round for a very long time. They’re tiny charts that slot in a cell and supply a fast look into tendencies, development, minimal and most values and so forth. They’re simple to insert and the impression is critical. To insert sparklines, choose the primary clean adjoining column to the precise of the information set. Then, click on the Insert tab and choose one of many choices, resembling Line, within the Sparklines group. Enter the information vary (Determine A) and click on OK. (If you choose the information vary, you’ll have to re-enter the placement vary; these settings aren’t sticky like different comparable settings.) With a look, you’ll be able to glean the next concerning the information:

  • James and Martha have all had a latest upswing in gross sales.
  • Luke’s and Rosa’s gross sales have gone down considerably after having displaying.
  • June and Nick have each elevated steadily.

Alternatively, it is troublesome to inform who the highest gross sales go to, however by going solely by the sparklines, my wager’s on June, though Nick appears to be like like an in depth contender. June has had a gradual rise in gross sales with no dips and Nick’s dips aren’t as dramatic as the opposite’s. Nonetheless, you’ll be able to’t be certain. Sparklines are a neat visible device, however the default line will not all the time inform the entire story.

Determine A


 Sparklines inform the viewer rather a lot concerning the information. 

The untold story

Taking a look at solely the sparklines, you may miss some necessary particulars as a result of there isn’t any technique to discern 0. Consequently, you won’t notice that James made no gross sales within the Central area and truly misplaced cash within the Northeast. Nor may you notice that Martha made no gross sales within the Southwest and had a poor displaying within the Central area. As well as, Rosa’s gross sales for the Southeast are considerably lower than the opposite areas.

SEE: Workplace 365: A information for tech and enterprise leaders (free PDF) (TechRepublic)  

The sparklines are small and as such, they will not all the time expose particulars that provide necessary perception. Fortuitously, there are methods to make these particulars stand out.

Formatting to show particulars

Maybe the primary visible enchancment ought to expose detrimental values—and it ought to actually stand out. You are able to do in order follows:

  1. Choose the sparklines; that is H3:H8.
  2. Click on the Sparkline contextual tab.
  3. Within the Type group, click on the Marker Coloration dropdown and select Unfavourable Factors (Determine B); I selected crimson. Solely James has a detrimental gross sales worth.

Determine B


A brilliant marker will assist detrimental values stand out. 

With out that marker, you would not know that James had a detrimental gross sales worth or that he was the one one with a detrimental gross sales worth. That marker would not aid you discover the highest salesperson, although. As is, it’s troublesome to inform who the highest salesperson is, who’s on the underside and so forth. That may be mounted with one other fast format change.

Excel, by default, evaluates a vertical axis for every file making a visible comparability between data troublesome. As a substitute, you will most likely need every file to make use of the identical axis, which is straightforward to implement:

  1. Choose the sparklines (H3:H8).
  2. Click on the Sparklines contextual tab if obligatory.
  3. From the Axis dropdown (within the Group group) select Identical For All Sparklines in each the Vertical Axis Minimal Values Choices and Vertical Axis Most Values Choices (Determine C). 

Determine C


  Use the identical axis for all data.

The change is delicate for probably the most half, however we’re a bit nearer than earlier than. What you see is a slight adjustment in these excessive and low factors as a result of the values are so shut. When coping with data the place the values are a lot greater or decrease than others, you will note a extra distinct change. 

We simply made the axis the identical for all of the data so now let’s show that axis as follows:

  1. Choose the sparklines (H3:H8).
  2. From the Axis dropdown (within the Group group), select Present Axis.

Determine D exhibits the outcomes, which make it a lot simpler to see how low these low factors actually are. Even on this easy instance with little change, I do consider it is extra evident than earlier than that June is our prime salesperson. 

Determine D


For those who nonetheless discover the sparklines aren’t as forthcoming as you want, change the row top and/or the column width. Determine E exhibits the identical sparklines, however the dips and rises are a bit extra dramatic than earlier than.

Determine E


  Change the row top and the column width.

Keep tuned

These fundamental adjustments can transform the story the sparklines inform. In a future article, I will present you the way to use them in a dashboard setting to match every file to the common gross sales. 

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