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Create Dashboards Using Xcelsius

Business magazines regularly extol the virtues of dashboards, which enable managers to monitor their organizations performance. Dashboards display measures such as customer satisfaction, sales volume, and marketing campaign performance, using familiar displays such as temperature gauges, charts, and progress bars.

You can create charts in Excel, but even in Excel 2003 your charting capabilities aren't any better than they were in Excel 97. Sure, it's possible to create multi-part charts that emulate temperature gauges, but they dont look as good as the images created using a dedicated product.
If you want to create professional-looking dashboards, charts, and maps, I recommend Xcelsius. The Standard edition will set you back $195, but that's small change for a corporation and a reasonable price for an individual who wants to create attractive graphics. The Professional edition, which includes advanced features including one-click export to PDF, interactive charts, and the ability to create add-ons, runs $495 and is a good value for advanced practitioners and programmers. You can download a free trial from the Xcelsius site.
In this first article, Ill show you how to create a simple dial gauge. In the future, I'll show you how to customize the dial gauge and to create other types of controls.

To create a dial gauge using Xcelsius, follow these steps:

1. Run Xcelsius and, if necessary, choose View | Components to display the Components window.

2. In the Components window, click the Category tab, double-click Single Value, double-click Gauge, click Gauge-0, and then click anywhere on the dashboard canvas. Your gauge appears.

3. Choose Data | Import Model. Then, in the Import Model dialog box, click the ellipses button at the right of the Excel File field. The Open dialog box appears.

4. Click the file with the data you want to import, click Open to confirm the file you selected, and then click OK to accept the file displayed in the Import Model dialog box.

5. Right-click the gauge and choose Properties to display the Properties dialog box.

6. If necessary, click the General tab, and then click the Collapse Dialog control next to the Link to Cell field. Your Excel workbook appears as a temporary file; click the cell that contains the value to be represented by the gauge and then click OK to accept the selection. The gauge changes to reflect the value.

Next up: customizing your gauge!