Saturday, 3 September 2011

Microsoft Excel – Graphically, Not the Best Software!!!

On the evening of the 1st of September, I was told that SPSS is not the right software for making graphs and charts. I went through the limited functionalities it offers and realized that it was good, but not as good as Microsoft Excel. Sure enough, inputting the same data on Excel and generating the charts showed this difference. The charts turned out to be more vivid and colourful and were a treat to the eye. Even the bubble graphs looked quite realistic. To add to that, the ease of making charts in Excel made it a hands-on winner over SPSS, if one only looks at graphical data presentation. Then I wondered, is there a software that could do the job even BETTER? Or, is there an alternative to SPSS that could make attractive charts and graphs as well? The answer – A RESOUNDING YES!!!

But before that, why is graphical presentation important? Graphs and charts give life to the data at hand. Data could look quite boring and dull when presented in the form of tables. A part of the data could, at times, be very difficult to understand as well. However, the main use of graphical presentation of data is to illustrate comparison. Tables, in such cases, tend to show the comparison in absolute terms. What I mean is that it shows the different figures but the extent of variations cannot be fully understood. Charts present a more relative picture. The sudden drop in the size of the bar or the sudden fall of a line signifies a much larger picture that could just not be depicted by using numbers in the form of a table.

Bars, charts and pie diagrams are a passé. There are various new types of charts available. Excel has a few of those. However, there are softwares which have as many, if not more. Plus, they are visually appealing as well. Some of them are described below.


Going by the descriptions on the product’s website, SigmaPlot could be a very good replacement for SPSS. However, it may not be generalized as I have neither used it nor am I an expert at SPSS to say so. This comes only from a novice’s point of view. SigmaPlot allows you to do a whole lot of tests with your data (ranging from a simple Chi-Square to complicated ones like Fisher Exact Test, McNemars's Test, Relative Risk and Odds Ratio). It also allows you to perform correlation and regression and has measures to check for survival, like Kaplan-Meier’s and Cox Regression. At the same time, the data can be transformed just like it can be in SPSS.

However, the type and quality of charts is much better than in SPSS. It features bar graphs, line graphs, pie charts, histograms, time series plots, box plots, scatter diagrams, bubbles, needles, contours and waterfalls. There are various additional features like 3D rotation, reference lines, error bars, function plotter and multiline text editor. One can also export the charts to various formats or even save as a web page.

Some of the screenshots of the charts are given below:


If one is looking at an application only for chart-making and not for advanced statistics, FusionCharts may be a good software to look at. FusionCharts is the product of InfoSoft Global (P) Ltd., an ISV headquartered in Kolkata, India. InfoSoft Global is the licensor of the FusionCharts Suite and all other data visualization solutions that are distributed under the FusionCharts brand.

FusionCharts is a flash charting component that can be used to render data-driven & animated charts for your web applications and presentations. FusionCharts is created in Adobe Flash 8 and can be used with any web scripting language like HTML, .NET, ASP, JSP, PHP, ColdFusion, Ruby on Rails etc., to deliver interactive and powerful flash charts. describes it as, “A set of Macromedia Flash (SWF) files that helps you to create eye-catching animated graphs.”

FusionCharts is a comprehensive charting suite with over 75 chart types and 500 maps which can be rendered both in 2D and 3D. Also, it renders stunning charts with animation and interactivity that cannot be matched with most server-side charting components.

As mentioned earlier, the charts rendered are highly interactive with drill-down to unlimited levels, tooltips, chart export and visual editing. Furthermore, the charts automatically find out the best position for numbers, captions and labels even when they are very short, very long or there are too many of them. The charts can also be exported to JPEG, PNG and PDF formats. Huge quantities of data can be presented using a zoom chart which has a macroscopic view and can be zoomed in. In addition to all the general purpose charts, FusionCharts offers advanced charts like Combination, Scroll, Zoom Line, XY Plot, Marimekko and Pareto charts. Even the analysis is much easier using highlights, colour ranges and trend lines.

A screenshot of the FusionCharts as a Web Application is given below:


Another software that one can lay their hands on is Charts & Graphs by SummitSoft. Charts & Graphs has a wide variety of styles and powerful editing options to quickly take your charts to the next level. The program allows you to create and edit stunning 3-D charts and graphs without having to switch back and forth from your data files. It’s as easy as 1-2-3:

  1. Select a chart or graph style
  2. Enter or import your data, adjust colours and effects
  3. Use in your document or export as an image, PDF and other formats

Although Microsoft Office needs to be present in your system to run the software, Charts & Graphs will take your presentations, reports and documents to a new level. Charts & Graphs allows you to instantly rotate any 3-D chart in real-time for perfect presentation. You can also explode (separate) all or individual parts of a chart for greater impact. Multi-layered data charts can also be prepared using this software. Since the data resides with the chart or graph, one does not need to move between applications to modify – it can be done directly from this software.

Charts & Graphs allows you to create stunning charts, one of which is illustrated below:

Data presentation is very important for organizations today as one is moving away from heavily-loaded reports to more lucid presentations. It therefore becomes critical to attract attention using visually appealing and interactive charts for a much greater impact. Although Microsoft Excel has managed to do it quite well, there are still a few gaps in this area which have been filled by other softwares. It is time that one looks beyond Excel for these needs. Will Excel be able to do it as well as the other softwares in the days to come? Only time will tell.


Author: Kanishka Pasari

Group: Marketing – Group 4

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