3 Types of Sparklines for Excel Dashboards and Reports

By Michael Alexander

Sparklines give you the ability to show data trends in your Excel dashboards and reports. Although sparklines look like miniature charts (and can sometimes take the place of a chart), this feature is completely separate from the Excel chart feature.

For example, charts are placed on a worksheet’s drawing layer, and a single chart can display several series of data. In contrast, a sparkline is displayed inside of a worksheet cell, and displays only one series of data.

Excel 2013 supports three types of sparklines: Line, Column, and Win/Loss. This figure shows examples of each type of sparkline graphic, displayed in column H. Each sparkline depicts the six data points to the left.

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  • Line: Similar to a line chart, the Line type of sparkline can appear with or without a marker for each data point. The first group in this figure shows Line sparklines with markers. A quick glance reveals that with the exception of Fund Number W-91, the funds have been losing value over the six-month period.

  • Column: Similar to a column chart, the second group shows the same data with Column sparklines.

  • Win/Loss: A Win/Loss sparkline is a binary-type chart that displays each data point as a high block or a low block. The third group shows Win/Loss sparklines. Notice that the data is different. Each cell displays the change from the previous month.

    In the sparkline, each data point is depicted as a high block (win) or a low block (loss). In this example, a positive change from the previous month is a win, and a negative change from the previous month is a loss.