CleanCharts: Excel add on creates better looking charts with a single click

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CleanCharts is a free add on for Microsoft Excel that can tweak your Excel charts in several different ways to make them more visually appealing.

It provides five areas of improvement: removal of “chart junk” (i.e. unnecessary formatting), fixing axis labels and scaling, fixing font sizes, doing away with 3D elements, and changing the color scheme to one that provides better contrast and is more visually appealing (see screenshot above right).

CleanCharts can process charts singly or in batch across an entire workbook.

Note, however, that it may not be the optimal one-size-fits-all chart formatting solution, especially for charts that have already been significantly modified and/or improved manually.

Charting before and after2

CleanCharts Screenshot2

Excel charts are the foremost data visualization tools the world over, but the default charts that Excel generates can be easily improved. This little add-on does exactly this. Here are some pros and cons:

PROS:

  • A single click and your charts are much improved, especially when it comes to fonts and axis labels
  • Pick and choose: you can choose exactly which interventions you want and do not want.
  • Batch processing: of all charts in a workbook. For each chart the add-on will ask that you select which of the interventions you want to apply.
  • Installation: is fairly easy. So is uninstallation
  • Compatible with Excel 2003, 2007, and 2010

CONS:

  • Does not seem to like dual axes, which is very strange. It reverted my secondary axis data array to the initial axis. My advice: use CleanCharts on your chart before you add the second axis; you will get all the benefits and can build your chart further from there.
  • Can, at times, change the chart type to something completely different even if it is not 3D. For example, it changed my (non 3D) line charts to bar charts, even as I didn’t want it to do so. I couldn’t quite figure out why it would do that.

The verdict: a nice little add on that makes creating an Excel chart that much easier. Although it only performs a handful of tweaks, the results really are better than the default.

Compatibility: Microsoft Excel 2003, 2007 or 2010 with VBA macros enabled.

Go to the plugin home page to download the latest version (approx 171K).