You can use sparklines in Excel to track expenses or other data in a visual graph to show increases or decreases in value. We have demonstrated the various ways to create graphs in Excel in other articles to show breakdowns over a single time frame. Sparklines, however, can track changes in value over a long span in time. Excel sparklines can be used in a variety of reports. In this example, we will use Excel sparklines to track the usage of utilities over several months.
Create A Sparklines Graph in Excel
To begin, you can use an existing workbook already populated with data or create a new workbook by opening Excel and going to File>New>Blank Workbook.
If you want to duplicate this example, you can create a title for the report, create the months you want to track, and then list the utilities in different cells in the left hand column.
Next, left-click and drag the mouse to highlight only the values for each utility.
Since we want sparklines to display in a large column, we increased the width of the row where the sparklines data will appear. Then, in the ribbon menu above, select the Insert tab, then choose the Line button in the sparklines section.
You will be asked where you want the sparklines data to appear. Select the four rows from the column you expanded. In this example, those four rows were directly beside the columns we had highlighted. When you select these rows, the ranges will automatically populate in the Create Sparklines dialogue box.
The sparklines will then appear beside your data. You will notice how the lines rise and fall according to the data we provided. But the lines are hard to understand without any reference points.
To add markers, select the sparklines in your report. When you do, you’ll notice a Design tab appear in the ribbon menu. Choose the design you want, and then select the check box for Markers.
You will now notice that the sparklines have markers inserted in them representing the months in our table. This makes the sparklines much easier to understand.
As you can see, sparklines graphs can make any boring data pop with a visually appealing graphic denoting values spread over a period of time. Sparklines can be customized further to display different colors, and types. They can be displayed in column mode or win / loss formats instead of lines. Experiment with Excel sparklines to see which type works best for your report. To learn more about Excel, be sure to read our other Office tutorials.