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Microsoft and innovation

In the area of innovations, Microsoft may be remembered for debuting the "spider plot" with the forthcoming Excel 2007 release.  John S., a long-time reader, tipped me to this link, which contains an awe-inspiring display of engineering talent...
John said he "has never seen anything quite as ugly" and I have to concur.  I keep thinking of a gigantic spider with myriad legs.  Maybe I'm just being fantastical.  Three-dimensional plots are frequently untenable; this one is impossible.

Further, lurking behind the spider plot is a multi-colored table with numbers to 5 decimal places, each data graphic rivalling the other in terms of incomprehensibility.


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Agreed on the ugliness of the Spider graph (thanks ms!).

I have a more general question about 3D plots. In your opinion when is a good time to use a 3D plot?

Currently I'm working on a competitive release diagram that compares the number of press releases coming out of a set group of competitors (over time). There are 8 competitors plotted so the 2D line graph gets ugly and hard to read. But the 3D has to be angled and sorted in order to be legible.

Any thoughts or guidelines on when 3D is appropriate?

(I'm not sure if this is the appropriate forum to ask but I love this site and spend 80% of my time charting so it's been invaluable.)



Jon Peltier

This type of chart (3D Line, aka Ribbon Chart) has been available in Excel for many versions, since at least Excel 97. It took Excel 2007, though, to boast about it, and to put the potentially useful but more probably disastrous conditionally formatted table in the same view.

For the record, there are no new chart types or features in Excel 2007, But they have added the ability to apply gradients, shadows, blends, 3D marker and bar effects, and other "professional" formatting styles.

- Jon
Jon Peltier, Microsoft Excel MVP
Peltier Technical Services

Kelly O'Day

1.When are 3-D charts useful ? Never! to me, 3-d charts are usually chart junk.

2. How can you show your 8 competitors in 2D and still be readable?

Use a stacked XY chart. This approach borrows from trellis - lattice chart techniques of S-Plus, R.

I have an example stacked XY chart on my site. I also show a parallel XY chart.

I'll be glad to walk you through going from my example of 4 stacked series to 8 if you want to try this approach. Just email me [email protected]


John S.

I just realized where I've seen that figure before: it looks like the wad of staples I pull out of my stapler every time it jams up.


just came across this lovely site!

i never use 3D charts. if a chart looks incomprehensible, then throw it away! pcmag obviously got it wrong. you can do better with office 2007! have just have a look what i did and klick on my name..

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