Creating glossy Excel charts for your presentations is all well and good, but your static charts and graphs won't help much if your boss wants to play what-if games with the projected fourth-quarter sales. Add some interactivity with Infommersion's Xcelsius, an easy-to-use Excel add-in that lets you insert sliders, check boxes, clickable maps, and gauges in your charts and graphs--perfect for playing with the numbers and creating alternate scenarios on the fly. While Xcelsius disappoints with its inability to handle advanced spreadsheet features such as macros and references to other Excel files, the possibilities will impress those looking to create interactive charts, maps, and graphs.
Getting started with Xcelsius is simple; once you've launched the setup file and entered your registration key, you're ready to go. However, you will need to activate the program over the Net within the first five uses, so don't plan on using it on multiple machines without the appropriate site licenses.
We liked Xcelsius's clean, spare interface, which makes ample use of tool palettes that you can shrink or hide entirely. The most useful tools include the Components palette, a smorgasbord of charts, sliders, maps, lines, and other graphic and interactive components that you can drag and drop onto your work space, and the Properties palette, which lets you tweak the behavior and the appearance of the various charting elements. We also like the Object Browser, which lets you hide or reveal project elements by ticking a simple check box.
Xcelsius is a snap to use. You just import your Excel file, drag a chart from the Components palette, and associate axes, labels, and legends with the corresponding Excel data. There's a slight learning curve, but within half an hour or so, we were creating interactive charts, sliders, and dials on our own.
The sheer number of available components is impressive. Charts run the gamut from line, pie, column, and bar to bubble, area, XY, and radar, with plenty of variations and combinations in between. You can import your own images or choose from a variety of backgrounds and art elements, such as rectangles and vertical and horizontal lines. You can format the charts to some extent, including changing the chart colors, the label and legend fonts, and the point sizes, but we wish you could do more. For instance, we'd love to change the orientation of the data labels and create 3D charts and graphs, both of which you can do in Excel. That said, Xcelsius provides various templates to get you started, and global styles let you make presentation-wide changes with a single click.