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Ken

Learning R is a better way of spending time than learning how to make Excel do something that it doesn't want to do. Bar charts are an overly used form of graph, a scatter plot is easier to understand.

Jorge Camoes

Thanks for your post.

"A graphic is no longer ‘drawn’ once and for all; it is ‘constructed’ and reconstructed (manipulated) until all the relationships which lie within it have been perceived." Jacques Bertin wrote this in 1968 (you can imagine how interactive a chart could be by then). This is almost like a mantra to me.

You can look at this dataset from multiple points of view, including the one in the article.

I just added a spreadsheet to the post where the user can select the sorting key (including proportions...). Very basic, but it gives the user the option to construct his own knowledge within this specific format.

Jorge Camoes

Ken, I am not sure if the average NYT reader would agree with you...

Robert Kosara

Excel (and other spreadsheets) does a lot more than just basic bar charts, and even those can be used for all kinds of tricks (like Jorge's) and to prototype charts that are then made prettier in other applications. Juice Analytics (whose website is down right now) have some interesting screen casts on doing quite complex things with Excel. I think these tricks are useful because almost everybody has access to a spreadsheet (as opposed to software like Tableau or ProClarity) and doing these things broadens people's horizons on what visualization can do.

Jon Peltier

Ken -

"Learning R is a better way of spending time than learning how to make Excel do something that it doesn't want to do."

I'll admit that I know next to nothing about R, but I can't see millions of Excel users wanting to learn another charting language. Most don't learn VBA, which is integral to Excel, so why would they bother to learn something which is not integral?

"Bar charts are an overly used form of graph, a scatter plot is easier to understand."

True, bar charts are overly used, but they also can be more readily understood in many cases tahn XY charts. Perhaps you mean "dot plot" rather than "scatter chart".

Jorge Camoes

I hate to discuss the tool. I'd like to discuss things at a higher level, like Tufte or Few. But (reality check) people don't know how to use charts to communicate, and the only tool available is Excel. My modest goal is to make people aware of some best practices (as I read them) and show how to implement them using the available tool.

Jason May

Quick answer regarding Apple's Numbers: No. It's pretty, but the charting facilities don't have anything really significant to offer. I'm disappointed so far.

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