Jorge Camoes has been a regular reader and sometime commenter for a while. Little did we know that he has been blogging in Portuguese for the last 10 months. Recently, he has decided to join the English-speaking world. His new blog is, simply, Charts.
One post discusses the "population pyramid" chart for comparing advertising spending. He suggested the overlapping bar chart; see his comment here. By folding one side onto the other, this chart is clearly an improvement over the original, and yet it fails to convey the proportional spend, which is the key point being made in the article.
In another post, Jorge created a "screencast" (tutorial) of how to create a population pyramid in Excel. A lot of this mirror my own experience using Excel for graphing. Those of you who have asked for tips in the past should definitely see it.
What you'll find is that creating a nice-looking chart in Excel requires a lot of tedious finger-work. It is truly incredible how many steps, how much opening and closing of windows, back and forth navigation, etc. users are made to suffer through to make cosmetic changes.
With the advent of AJAX and other interactive technologies, one can only hope that new graphing software will use the "canvass" metaphor. If we want to reduce the spacing between bars, we should be able to grab the bars and move them together. If we want to change the ordering, we should be able to mouse over some menu and select a pre-defined ordering scheme, or to drag and move bars around as we please. etc. etc.
(I have heard that Apple's spreadsheet software Numbers has some of these features. I have yet to use it myself. If any of you have, let us know what you think.)