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

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).


 
 
 
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  • http://juiceanalytics.com Chris Gemignani

    Hi: I’m the developer of CleanCharts. I’m glad you found it useful. We were aggravated by Excel’s poor defaults and wanted to make it easy to have a clean starting point.

    You’re definitely right about the limitations, our approach is fairly simple and can choke on some advanced charts. CleanCharts switches certain chart types to other types automatically–most notably 3D to their 2D equivalents and pies to bars (if I remember correctly). I’m not sure why your line charts turned into bar charts–that definitely shouldn’t have happened. The source code is available with a permissive (MIT) license if any VBA hackers want to take the tool forward.

    If you like this, you should also check out our Chart Chooser (http://www.juiceanalytics.com/chart-chooser/). It’s a similar approach that lets you download from menu of advanced charts directly to Excel and PowerPoint.

  • Samer

    @ Chris. Wow. Those templates are just awesome. Thanks!

    The line chart mentioned above was indeed turned into a bar chart. I’ll change the work-related data and send it to you to look at sometime this week.

  • Paul

    Hm, don’t really like it after trying with a few diagrams. Trying the different settings and finding a combination where nothing gets work takes as long as just doing the changes manually.
    I had the x-axis titles rotated by 90 degrees, this tool just rotated them back, looking much worse, because the text is too long for this.
    It does not use the colors of my theme at all, so instead of different blue tones available there it uses blue, yellow and brown, a combination that does not look professional at all. Will uninstall it again, unfortunately not useful.

  • dan l

    Pretty cool.

    I’m not really concerned if it doesn’t play well with compound charts. If I’m taking the time to make a compound chart, I probably wouldn’t use a speed ap like this in the first place. But for the basics, this will still probably save me a lot of time.

  • Carlos

    To Chris

    wanna create an add-on for Excel so good that geeks will love you more than they love their iphones? we desperately need the ability to create box and whisker plots automatically… Right now it’s a pain in the butt to tabulate quartiles, min, max, etc and then tinker with the stacked bar chart to produce a single plot… just ridiculous. Ohh… and I don’t have an iphone! ;-) Thanks for your contribution!

  • Nebish

    xl is my daily bread, so very keen to try out. also like the templates.
    thanks Samer for bringing this kind of enhancement to the freeware buffet. :D