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Excel 2010: Picture Your Data with Sparklines

Although Excel 2007 and Excel 2010 share many features, one of the new additions in Excel 2010 are Sparklines. As many Excel users know, charts are a great way to get a picture of your worksheet numbers to more easily summarize trends, changes, and other important key data. Sparklines are charts with a twist--they are tiny charts that actually fit inside one cell. You can place them near, or even behind, the data itself, so they act as a handy and compact reference. You can also use them to highlight maximum or minimum values. Although Sparklines look like mini charts, and can sometimes take the place of a chart, this feature is completely separate from the more robust charting feature in Excel.

Sparklines Show a Quick Snapshot or Trend

Look at the examples below of Sparklines in Excel 2010. In the first example, Line Sparklines were added to chart trends for the years (far right) and the regions (top row). A new style and high and low point markers were added. The second example of Sparklines charts the variation of results for six months using a column Sparkline style.

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excel 2010 sparklines, charts in Excel, new features in Excel 2010, sparklines, how to create a sparkline in Excel 2010

How to Insert a Sparkline

To insert a Sparkline into an Excel 2010 worksheet: 

  1. Select the range that contains the data you want to graph as one or more Sparklines. The data for each Sparkline must be in a single column or row. (You can also highlight the data from the Create Sparklines dialog box).
  2. insert excel 2010 sparklines, charts in Excel, new features in Excel 2010, sparklines, how to create a sparkline in Excel 2010Click the Insert tab in the Ribbon, then pick the Sparkline type you want in the Sparklines group (Line, Column, Win/Loss).
  3. The Create Sparklines dialog box opens where you select the cell or range where you want to insert the Sparkline. Verify or change the data range you want to work with.
  4. When you click OK, the Sparklines appear in the location you picked.

Once you add Sparklines to your worksheet, you can change the formatting to show different points, styles, colors, markers, and other visual references. For instance, you might want to show the high point and low point markers on a line chart. These can even be formatted with specific color choices such as green for high and red for low.

To change the look of a Sparkline:

  1. Click a cell in the range with your Sparklines.
  2. Select the Sparkline Tools Design contextual tab if needed (shown below).
  3. Pick a new style or change other formatting options from the choices in the Ribbon.
  4. Click into a different worksheet cell to continue your work.

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Sparklines can be a great and useful visual improvement to your work in Excel!

Find out more about Sparklines and other new features in Excel 2010 in my new book, What's New in Microsoft Office 2010?


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Dawn Bjork Buzbee, MCT, The Software Pro

Dawn Bjork Buzbee is The Software Pro and a Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT) as well as a certified Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) Master Instructor, certified Microsoft Applications Specialist (MCAS) Instructor, and a certified Microsoft Office expert. Dawn shares smart and easy ways to effectively use software through her work as a software speaker, trainer, consultant, and author of 8 books.

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