Add Some Spark to Your Excel Spreadsheets

Creating SparklinesHave you and your spreadsheet lost the old fire?  Do you find your eyes wandering?  Rekindle that flame!  Add some “spark” to your spreadsheet using one of Microsoft Excel 2010’s coolest new features, “Sparklines”!

“Sparklines” are kind of like miniature charts that you can fit into a small area, such as a cell.  They are great for showing trends in a data series.  In the spreadsheet below, you see a series of numbers representing recordable safety violations by month.  Some people can extract what they want by looking through long rows of data like those below.  Others, however, prefer something more visual.

Insert Excel Sparklines

Notice the column labeled “Trends” in the picture above.  This is the ideal place for a “Sparkline”.  To insert a “Sparkline” here, click the cell in which you wish to place the “Sparkline”, then click the “Insert” tab on the ribbon toolbar, and click on the type of “Sparkline” you want from the “Sparkline” group.  See the picture below.

Inserting Sparklines

When you choose a “Sparkline”, you will see a dialog box like the one pictured below.  The first field asks you to input the range of cells that contain the data.  You can manually type this in, for example, A1:A12, or you can click the little square at the end of the box.  This little square will minimize the box and allow you to highlight the data range with your mouse.  It really is just a matter of preference.  The second field asks you where you want your “Sparkline” to reside in the sheet.  Note this can be a range and not just a single cell.

Creating Sparklines Window

Once you have inserted the “Sparkline”, you will see options to format it under the “Design” tab, highlighted in green below.  You can choose from a number of styles.  You can even set different colors for markers, such as high points and low points.

Customize the Sparkline

The next time you have to present a report in a spreadsheet, take a moment to insert one of these neat little “Sparklines”.

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Darrin Jenkins

Darrin is an IT manager for a large electrical contractor in Louisville KY. He is married and has 3 kids. He loves helping people with their technology needs. He runs a blog called Say Geek!