Chart from within Excel
with no jumping back and forth
by Steve Daum, PQ Systems software development
If you already use CHARTrunner, you know how easy it is to
create quality improvement charts from your Microsoft Excel
spreadsheets. With the upcoming release of CHARTrunner, known
as CHARTrunner-XL version 1.7, integration with Excel is even
better. Instead of jumping back and forth between CHARTrunner
and Excel, you can now get access to CHARTrunner without
From the comfort of your spreadsheets, you can highlight a range of
data and then request a control chart or a histogram or any of the charts.
CHARTrunner-XL maintains all current functionality. You can
still create charts from Access databases, SQL Server, Oracle, and ODBC
data sources. The primary addition to this release is the improved Excel
How does it work?
PQ Systems has developed an Excel Add-In. This is a special
type of program that makes new functionality available to Excel. Once
the Add-In has been activated, a new CHARTrunner button will
appear on your Excel menu. From this menu, you can request new charts
or ask for existing charts to be displayed. (Using this Add-in requires
Excel 2000 or higher.)
Unlike traditional chart definitions, which are saved in their own files,
a chart defined in Excel is saved in a special sheet within the Excel
file. This means the chart definition is found in the same file with
its data. If you open your employee morale spreadsheet, all your charts
related to employee morale will be available. If you open your customer
complaints spreadsheet, all your charts related to customer complaints
will be available.
What if I don’t use Excel?
CHARTrunner is a flexible and valuable tool for charting data
from a wide variety of data sources in addition to Excel. If you do
not use Excel, you can use the program in the traditional way. You define
charts, save them in various working folders, and display or print them
at your leisure.
What about my existing chart definitions?
When you install CHARTrunner-XL, set your working folder to
your existing chart definitions. The charts will work the same way they
always have, with no changes required. The Excel Add-In has been provided
as an additional way to use Excel data; it does not remove or change
the existing features.
What are some of the benefits of the Excel Add-In?
#1) Easier chart definition
The traditional way to define a chart from Excel data requires that
you tell CHARTrunner which rows and columns include your data
and how you want each column to be treated for the chart. Using the
Add-In, you highlight the data with your mouse, select the type of chart
you want, and then see the chart. This is a simpler, more direct way
to define a chart. You can still select Edit/Chart definition and make
various changes, but the first rendition is much easier.
#2) Data and relevant charts "live together"
When you work with a spreadsheet, all the data in which you have an
interest is usually in the spreadsheet. The .xls file is a nice container
for a related set of data. The Add-In allows the charts to live in this
same convenient container, the spreadsheet file.
#3) Less context switching for the Excel user
To many users Excel is a familiar and well-known program. Switching
from Excel to other programs and then back to Excel is sometimes a bit
of a jolt. This context switching goes away when you can generate the
CHARTrunner charts while using Excel.
#4) Improved productivity
Locating files in a Windows program takes time. Whether you are looking
for an Excel file that you have stashed somewhere or a chart definition
file, you have to spend some amount of time on the hunt. When using
the Add-In the charts and data live in the same file, so you will spend
less time looking for one or the other, and your productivity will increase.