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Excel 2013: The Missing Manual by Matthew MacDonald

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Chapter 20. Visualizing Your Data

Ordinary numbers are fun, but on their own they lack a little pizzazz. That’s why, when you need to advertise just how important a set of numbers is, you usually turn to some sort of data visualization—a graphical technique that turns part of a worksheet’s information into a picture.

You already learned about Excel charts, which are the most obvious type of data visualization. But Excel offers far more than simple line charts to help you see trends in your data. For example, you can add shaded bars, colored cells, or tiny icons to your graphs. Unlike charts, these types of data visualization take place directly on your worksheet. (There’s no floating box, as there is with charts.) But as with charts, the goal is the same—to provide visual cues that help the spreadsheet reader interpret the numbers.

The data visualization tools you’ll learn about in this chapter fall into two categories:

  • Data bars, color scales, and icon sets. These three features are more powerful versions of Excel’s basic conditional formatting feature, which you considered in Chapter 6. Like all types of conditional formatting, they change the way a cell looks based on the value it contains. For example, data bars draw a shaded bar that’s big for big cell values, but small for small numbers. Color scales change the background color of a cell based on its value, but more gradually than ordinary conditional formatting can. And icon sets use tiny pictures to flag important values, wherever ...

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