Use an Excel chart to show a time snapshot and trace a path

These Excel charts were inspired by Hans Rosling’s TED presentation on Religion and Babies ( He is absolutely great at engaging the viewer with his ability to bring data to life.

One of the things he did in his presentation was show the equivalent of an Excel bubble chart. He showed how different countries measured over the years. He also created a trail showing how a country progressed over time.

I decided to do the same with an Excel bubble chart – and implement both capabilities, i.e., the time snapshot and the time trail tracing the path, without any VBA code! The example I used was data from one of a series of seminars I had taught to healthcare executives. They participated, in teams, in a real-time, interactive, web-based simulation. In the simulation each team made decisions about how much of their limited resources to invest in (1) product development and operations and (2) marketing and sales. Their profitability depended both on their own decision and also their competitors. The simulation typically lasted 10 to 12 periods. The scroll bar in each chart controls the period shown or the latest period, as appropriate. The checkboxes control which teams have their performance history traced in the chart.

While I implemented the solution in Excel 2010, it should work in Excel 2007 and Excel 2003, though, in all fairness, I haven’t verified the older versions.

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Tushar Mehta

Align Primary and Secondary axes

There are instances when there are data series plotted on both the primary and secondary axes. For example, suppose we want to plot the two series A and B in Figure 1, with the elements in column B as the x-axis values. The A series will be a column cart on the primary axis and the B series will be a line chart on the secondary axis.

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Tushar Mehta

Access data in a closed workbook containing a protected worksheet

In a LinkedIn group, someone wanted to access data in a shared server-based workbook that contained a protected sheet with locked cells that were not selectable. In addition to sharing an automated way of doing this, this post contains two other embedded tips.

The solution, as many know, is to enter a formula in the destination worksheet that references the source cell, e.g., =’C:\Temp\[Book2.xlsx]Sheet1′!$E$5

Given the high likelihood of making an error in entering long formulas, I decided to see if I could automate the process.

Tip 1: In doing so, I discovered that under certain circumstances Excel will make a very interesting correction. If the source workbook has a single worksheet, then one can use any sheet name in the formula and Excel will change it to the correct one! So, if book2.xlsx contains a single sheet named Sheet1, and one were to enter the incorrect formula =’C:\Temp\[Book2.xlsx]abc’!$E$5, Excel will correct it to =’C:\Temp\[Book2.xlsx]Sheet1′!$E$5.

That aside, since the cells in the source worksheet are not selectable, one cannot construct the formula using click-and-point. So, I decided that as long as one wants the values from the source cells to be in the same cell in the destination worksheet, why not select the cells in the destination worksheet? The code below does just that. Also, there is no longer a need to open the shared server workbook at all!

One final note. I rarely use so many different interactions with the consumer, preferring a userform. But, the below is easier to share. ;-)

Tip 2: The Inputbox method gets a single piece of information from the user, e.g., the sheet name in the code below. If the user were to cancel the resulting dialog box, the method returns False. The usual way to check for this is to compare the returned value with “False”. But, this precludes a legitimate response of “False”! So, I tend to check if the returned type is a boolean. The same applies to the GetOpenFilename method.

Enter the code below is a standard VBE module. Then, open the destination worksheet (or create a new one), and then run the linkToExternal subroutine. It will ask for the source workbook, the source worksheet, and then the destination cells. The code will add in each destination cell a formula that links to the same cell in the source worksheet.

Option Explicit

Sub linkToExternal()
If ActiveWorkbook Is Nothing Then
MsgBox "Please open the destination workbook before running this macro"
Exit Sub
End If
Dim FName
FName = Application.GetOpenFilename( _
Title:="Please select the source workbook")
If TypeName(FName) = "Boolean" Then Exit Sub
FName = Left(FName, InStrRev(FName, Application.PathSeparator)) _
& "[" & Mid(FName, InStrRev(FName, Application.PathSeparator) + 1) _
& "]"
Dim SheetName
SheetName = Application.InputBox("Please enter the name of the source sheet", Type:=2)
If TypeName(SheetName) = "Boolean" Then Exit Sub
FName = "='" & FName & SheetName & "'!"
Dim Rng As Range
On Error Resume Next
Set Rng = Application.InputBox( _
"Please select the destination cells into which you want the corresponding source cell values", _
On Error GoTo 0
If Rng Is Nothing Then Exit Sub
Dim aCell As Range
For Each aCell In Rng
aCell.Formula = FName & aCell.Address(True, True)
Next aCell
End Sub

Highlight row and column of active cell

By default, when the user selects a cell, Excel highlights the row and column by changing the color of the associated row and column headers. This tip shares multiple ways to highlight the row and column in more obvious ways as well as a way to highlight the cell in a specific column in the same row.

The emphasis is on the use of conditional formatting to accomplish the task. The minimal VBA code required to make it work is the same single executable statement for all of the different highlighting options!

For a version in a page by itself (i.e., not in a scrollable iframe as below) visit

Tushar Mehta