Monday, 27 August 2012

The secret to great excel dashboards: The Excel Camera Tool

One of the problems in building dashboards in excel is that if you just use charts then you can easily overwhelm people with graphics. Sometimes you need to display simple cells and tables on your dashboard but the problem is that if you insert them each as full cell references they look out of proportion to the graphs etc. Also things can get messy in terms of selecting appropriate column widths and you run out of screen space pretty soon!

Is there a solution? Yes -  the little known Excel Camera Tool allows you to take a picture of any section of a spreadsheet and place it on your dashboard at whatever size and shape you need. The key difference is that although you can manipulate it like an image it’s a “live picture” – anytime the underlying data changes the values in the picture automatically change too.

The camera tool is not automatically enabled on the Excel menu in the latest versions of excel but it very easy to add it by selecting “Customise the Quick Access Toolbar”. So if you are building excel dashboards and you don’t know about the excel camera tool you are definitely missing an important trick!

Ken Thompson (aka The BumbleBee) blogs about bioteams, virtual collaboration and business simulation at