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July 8, 2010 / marden928

How do you create data-drivens in PPT?

As a visual communications specialist, it’s my job to make sure a PowerPoint document is beautiful, audience appropriate, consistent and correct.  A huge factor in the success of my job lies with data-drivens.  Should feel pretty simple, right?  Wrong.

I’d say the most consistent thing about data-driven use is that it’s not consistent.  People sometimes use the data-driven drivers embedded in PPT (which functions differently between 2003, 2007 and 2008) or they import from Excel.  More graphically oriented places like to do them in Illustrator and then import them in.  Super fancy places use data-driven embedded programs like ThinkCell.  All of those options are fine if everyone touching a document has the same set up.  Alas, that’s not the case.

Instead, documents a frequently a mishmash of 2-3 different methods with everyone scrambling at the end.  Some don’t know how to use Excel, many don’t have Illustrator on their machines (or the original .ai files), and others still get error messages telling them they don’t have the correct plug-in, why don’t they spend $1200 to get it?


If you’re a consultant, find out what your client uses and use that method.  Remember that your client is paying you for a product they can use.

If you’re a fancy time designer, awesome.  Remember than info-graphic porn needs to be editable if going to be used by business peoples.  Make sure that the user of your chart doesn’t need to be able to edit the numbers themselves.  If they do, hold off on the fancy-time Illustrator chart and just use PPT.  Use that fancy time Illustrator chart in print OR create a PPT version as well.

iI you’ve got something like ThinkCell, note that I’m jealous and never forget to convert your charts to a useable setting for others that don’t have ThinkCell.

If you’re on the PowerPoint development team, can you please go back to the old data-driven programming?  The current one is hard to work with.  I completely understand why so many of my clients just render their data-drivens in Excel.

If you render your data-drivens in Excel, consider getting some help in to convert them to PPT – there are just not as many graphical options.  Alas, it’s not always just about the analysis.

Any other pointers?  Any awesome plug-ins that you know about and want to share?  I’m all ears!


Leave a Comment
  1. BeGraphic / Jul 13 2010 4:38 pm

    BeGraphic might be another solution (including 10 000 editable geographic maps… given to business users), even if the 100% PPT is still under construction.

    Its all concept is about making data-driven infographics on all characteristics (border, color, height, length, rotation…).

    • marden928 / Jul 13 2010 4:45 pm

      Nice! Of course, I’ll repeat myself: probably best if everyone touching a document has it, versus just some (causing some chaos since not everyone is playing on the same field)

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