I learned from Tim Mayes in Office Labs Chart Advisor for Excel that Microsoft’s Office Labs has developed an add-in that advises you based on your data what chart type you should use. From the Office Labs Chart Advisor page:
Chart Advisor is a prototype that provides an alternate approach for creating charts in Excel 2007. This add-in uses an advanced rules engine to scan your data and, based on predefined rules, displays charts according to score. Top scoring charts are available for you to preview, tweak, and insert into your Excel worksheet.
Tim’s take on the Chart Advisor was that it didn’t predict the chart type he would have expected based on his data, which consisted of a list of student names plus scores for three tests. Tim would have expected a clustered column or bar chart because of the list of categories (student names), but the utility ignored the category data and instead suggested an XY chart.
Despite Tim’s mild disappointment, I thought that perhaps Office Labs has come up with a tool to help Joe User display his data more effectively. So I rushed to the Chart Advisor page, downloaded the Chart Advisor installer, started to install, and ran into this pleasant screen:
Grrr. Okay, I thought the PIAs were installed, though I never used them directly. I checked, and in fact the PIAs were listed right there in Add or Remove Programs. I uninstalled the existing PIAs, then followed the link to the PIA download, downloaded the executable, ran the executable which unpacked the installer, then ran the installer. The installer started okay but seemed to vanish after a few moments, with no dialog verifying that installation had completed successfully, though it was again listed in Add or Remove Programs. I uninstalled, rebooted, and tried reinstalling a few times, to no avail.
So my review of the Chart Advisor is on hold. I do have some words of wisdom for the Microsoft developers:
This is an add-in for Excel, isn’t it? What’s wrong with Excel VBA for such a straightforward utility? VBA interfaces so readily with Excel and the rest of the Office applications, even with Excel and Office 2007. Why complicate your life, and the lives of your users, by writing it in a framework which requires uninstallable PIAs? What is PIA anyway, besides a shorter form of the acronym PITA? I’ve heard of deployment issues with VSTO and .Net add-ins, which rely on these PIAs to control Office applications; now I’ve encountered such issues for the first time.
Hopefully this is just a temporary setback, because I did look forward to testing this utility.