December 2003   

Vol. 5, No. 12

Easy, easier, easiest:
Chart from within Excel with no jumping back and forth
by Steve Daum, PQ Systems software development manager

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 leaving Excel.
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 integration.
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.

Copyright 2003 PQ Systems.

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