A line chart in Crystal Xcelsius: how difficult can it be?

Can Crystal Xcelsius replace Excel as a charting tool? As the regular readers know, I am creating an Xcelsius version of my Excel Demographic Dashboard to answer this simple question.

I am afraid the results until now are less than stellar. Although I could easily add four gauges with the four main demographic KPI, I am not really happy with the population pyramid and the barely passable scatter plot shows how limited Xcelsius’ data model is.

But today I am creating a simple line chart. Three variables and a dummy series. How difficult can it be?


This is the result. As usual, the one on the left is the original chart and the one on the right is the Crystal Xcelsius version.

The Xcelsius version is much better rendered, that’s no surprise. But let’s put that aside for a moment and focus on the legend in the Xcelsius version. Notice anything bizarre? Bizarre like in the-legend-has-nothing-to-do-with-the-chart? The legend is using markers to identify the series but wait… I turned off the “Show Markers” option… Of course you can turn on the markers, set them to size 1 and use the same color as in lines. But still…

As far as I can see, you can’t directly label the series, so you can’t remove the legend. Removing the legend should always be a priority, according to the principle of simplicity in chart design.

I used a dummy series in the Excel version to place a marker along the X axis to mark the active year. This can’t be done in Xcelsius, since you can’t turn on the “Show Markers” option for a specific series.

Finally, the X axis is not labeled because it would become unreadable with labels for 60 years. Again, there is no obvious way to remove a defined set of labels. I suppose it could be done by removing the labels in the Excel file, but I didn’t test it.

Once again, Xcelsius failed to deliver a correct copy of a simple chart. There are some open-minded Xcelsius aficionados among the readers that will kindly prove me wrong and will share with us how to solve this issues…

We are almost done with this series of posts. Next time I’ll compare table layouts, before the last post, where I’ll discuss the overall conclusions.

7 thoughts on “A line chart in Crystal Xcelsius: how difficult can it be?”

  1. This mirrors my own limited experience in Xcelsius. Nice visual appearance (if you aren’t swept overboard), but the underlying charting engine is inadequate for all but the most rudimentary charts.

  2. At the end of this series, I’m eager to know your answer to one question, “Do you agree with Stephen Few’s criticisms of CX?”

    In the meantime, can you share your raw data (.xls) so that we might also try these experiments?

  3. I had to laugh out loud at your comments about the legend. Some of the design flaws in Xcelsius should have been like number one on the to-do list of the developers.

    Here is a fellow blogger and Xcelsius guru. Maybe Lauren or Mike can add some insight.


  4. Although I agree with your thoughts on the inconsistencies between Crystal Xcelsius and Excel, I think it’s just as important to point out that it is not supposed to be a “replacement charting tool”. It’s TRUE power comes with adding interactivity and multiple layers of data, to hopefully add value to the content. I think it’s also fair to say that all of the things you mentioned can be achieved with Xcelsius, even if they aren’t packaged as an obvious property of the component itself.

    I created my own little model. Sorry for my data, I know it doesn’t quite “add up”…but I was in a hurry. The bottom line is that Xcelsius really empowers the users to get as creative with their data and visualizations as necessary and you are only limited by your willingness to play around.

    – Justin

  5. Jon, there seems to be a large market for rudimentary charts, I’m afraid.

    Jeff, I’m eager to know too!

    Tony, thanks for the links. It is always nice to see an old joke in new clothes.

    Justin, thanks for sharing this. I wouldn’t says that “you are only limited by your willingness to play around” when discussing Xcelsius (or any other software, as a matter of fact).

    Creativity is the right way to expand our limits, and I’ve seen very creative people around Xcelsius…

    Can you please come back to discuss my final post in this series?

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