What is important when creating Excel models (not only for SlideFab)?

There are myriads of things which are doable with Excel. And for each of these things, there is another myriad of possibilities on how do it, exactly. In fact, many Excel design approaches lead to some kind result. But when it comes to changeability, maintainability, understandability, robustness and calculation performance some of these approaches are better than others. So, what is important when creating an Excel workbook, actually?

Even though Excel has been around for 30+ years and even though many people have lots years of experience, there is no widespread understanding on what is actually important when designing an Excel model. This is also true, when it comes to creating Excels for PowerPoint automation with SlideFab 2. What might work somehow OK in a normal Excel might not be sufficient when designing it for automation purposes: For such cases the data and formulas need to be structured in a very clean and consistent way. This is true for SlideFab 2 but also for other VBA-coded macros which rely on a certain structure for the automation.

Even though building a structured and clean Excel workbook might take a little longer in the beginning, it typically pays off in many ways. In particular, when underlying data changes a little bit. Or when there is a small adaption to some calculation. Then you see the difference between a good and a weak workbook design. The weak workbook design will be much harder to change and is more prone to errors. (For all who know some VBA: Have you ever experienced that changing a worksheet a little bit, has numerous consequences for the VBA code, too? If so, then the VBA code was poorly written. Sorry, to say that. Better think twice before starting to code some VBA macro. So, why not starting with a good workbook design from the very beginning.

In order to empower users to create better Excel models – for SlideFab 2 and also in general – I took some time to create an overview of best practices. The recommendations regarding best practices are based on many years of Excel and VBA-programming experience during which I built hundreds or maybe thousands of Excel models. The mistakes I made don’t have to be yours. These recommendations give a clear answer to the question regarding what is important when creating an Excel model.

Minor update of SlideFab 2 v1.9 available now

SlideFab 2 v1.9 is available now. It contains code changes due to a recent update in think-cell 10 which led to a PowerPoint freeze after starting the Slide Making process.

Always remember: think-cell is an awesome product. But it might stop working with SlideFab at anytime due to updates to the think-cell software. SlideFab will try to keep it running.

Learn more about automating think-cell slides with SlideFab.

Of course, it is possible to use Excel and PowerPoint charts with SlideFab. There are so many options, choose what you prefer most!

Minor update of SlideFab 2 v1.8 available now

SlideFab 2 v1.8 is available now. It brings a couple of logical improvements to the Slide Loops feature. This feature can be used as an alternative or an enrichment to the overall iteration when creating multiple copies of a given slide. Of course, this new version is also available as all free SlideFab 2 LITE edition.

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think-cell chart mass production with all new SlideFab 2 v1.7

think-cell create Excel link

SlideFab 2 v1.7 brings not many updates but for fans of think-cell a significant one: When a PowerPoint template slide contains one or more Excel-linked think-cell charts, SlideFab will allow the chart update and break the Excel links for the output slides. In this way the output slides will contain real think-cell charts (not just mere screenshots or so) which can be fine-tuned or altered when required. Further information about how this works can be found in the documentation.

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Using customization to individualize mass-produced PowerPoint slides

The art of creating PowerPoint presentations is topic of a whole industry: Templates, tutorials, manuals, best practices, etc. are offered to enable users to sculpture one perfect presentation. However, so much effort for one presentation does not scale well, e.g. when each country, business unit, team leader, etc needs a dedicated presentation. In such cases mass creating slides and presentations can help: Same structure but different data. In most cases the outcome is not very emotional or thrilling as titles or annotations do not reflect the message conveyed through the data. The slides tell no story. In fact, one might argue that a phonebook is more exciting. Unfortunately, the situation is as follows: One gets either customization or economies of scale.

Matrix customization vs economies of scale

However, this article is about approaches to bring more customization to mass-produced slides. Even though these tipps are meant for SlideFab 2, some will find them helpful for manual automation coding with VBA or Excel modeling in general.  So, here are some ideas which explain how to get more customization when mass producing PowerPoint slides or presentation based on Excel.

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Human-vs-Machine: How SlideFab 2 performs against human brute force

How much time does SlideFab 2 really save? In order to find that out there will be a competition between Alice and Bob. On the one hand, Alice uses SlideFab 2. On the other hand, Bob uses his own hands with high-performance copy and paste and leverages a small VBA snippet as turbo. The task will be to create dashboard slides in PowerPoint which are filled through an Excel-based calculation.

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Likert Charts mass creation in Powerpoint using Excel and SlideFab 2

There are plenty of ways to visualize results from surveys and benchmarks. A classical one is a line plot of the Likert scale (i.e. Likert chart / plot). While it is a great chart type, it is a pity that Excel does not offer it out of the box.

There are manuals on the internet available on how to build a Likert chart with Excel. However, this post explains how to mass create multiple slides with Likert Charts with SlideFab 2 for free. This can be useful in benchmarking surveys for example, where each participant shall receive a personalized result presentation.

UPDATE: There was a bug in the Excel model which led to incorrectly drawn charts. Thanks to Thomas Seitz from http://www.tsm-marktforschung.de/ for pointing this out. The example files was updated, cf. below.

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Mass Producing Excel Charts to Powerpoint gets easier with all new SlideFab 2 v1.5

SlideFab 2 v1.5 comes with the great new feature to automate Excel-to-Powerpoint linked charts. This is a great addition to the existing SlideFab 2 features which can copy charts from Excel to Powerpoint as image and to update the data in Powerpoint charts. Of course, this feature is also supported in the all free SlideFab 2 LITE edition.

MINOR UPDATE 10th January, 2019: A new installer was made available as the old SSL certificate had expired.

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How Excel Tables exceed Named Ranges when writing legible formulas

Creating legible Excel formulas is something which is very handy, typically. No matter whether another person or oneself needs to adopt and understand an Excel file. It can be difficult to find into the logic of an old or alien Excel file: Then even plain calculations can be hard to grasp. But there are also cases where complex workbooks are easy to understand. It depends, as always:

Imagine a classical way to make an Excel file hard to understand: Adding numerous references across worksheets to single cells. This happens quite often. Even to adapt Excel users: For example, they separate calculation sheets from a parameter sheet. Conceptually, this is a good idea, but things can get messy.

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All new and totally free SlideFab 2 lite edition coming with v1.4 update

SlideFab 2 v 1.4 is an edition update which introduces an all new and totally free SlideFab 2 LITE version. The idea of this LITE version is to democratize Excel to Powerpoint automation: Power to the User! It offers all features of the full SlideFab 2 versions FLEX and SAVER. The lite version can be used to automate two shapes per slide, which will cover essential tasks, e.g. setting slide headline and some content automatically. This content can be a chart, an image, a table or even something else. With this LITE version dozens, hundreds or even thousands of slides can be fabricated automatically.

SlideFab 2 lite will do the job

In brief: SlideFab 2 lite enables you …

  • to fabricate hundreds or thousands of slides automatically
  • to bring various elements to Powerpoint based on your Excel model such as Texts, Tables, Conditional Formattings, Charts, Images and much more
  • to use all these additional features, such as conditioned creating, sorting, splitting into multiple files, VBA execution, etc.

This means that this free SlideFab 2 lite version will be a huge time saver for you. There is no need to use massive copy/paste anymore. No need to code your own Excel to Powerpoint macros. It is all there. Out of the box. At no cost.

No matter in which industry you are or what corporate function you fulfill. No matter for which purpose you have need to create slides. With SlideFab 2 lite you can fabricate ’em.

SlideFab 2 lite can be downloaded for free here.

Just in case

If the lite version becomes too small at some point in time, because there is a need to automate more than 2 shapes per slide, upgrading is easy. Just get a FLEX or SAVER license, enter the download key into the software, and there you go. SlideFab 2 will be unleashed from its lite limitation. And what’s best: You already know that it will be for working for you from the lite edition.

New SlideFab 2 v1.2 introduces “Scale to Fit” feature and more

SlideFab 2 v1.2 is a minor update introducing a few new features, improvements and bugfixes.

What’s new in SlideFab 2 v1.2

  • Added a new resize mode for shapes: “Scale To Fit” which helps if e.g. source images sometimes come in landscape or portrait mode. In these cases Scale to Fit ensures that the source image remains within the dimensions of the target shape while keeping the aspect ratio (i.e. no scaling distortions). Cf. screenshot below where Resizing is currently set to “Scale to Fit” (4-way arrow).
  • Added a new feature to help positioning in export mode “Indirect Shape” both vertically and horizontally (cf. screenshot below “H-Align” and “V-Align”) . It is now possible to decide between left, center, right and top, middle, bottom alignment in case the picture does not fill the whole target shape dimensions. This might particularly be the case when using resize mode “Scale to Fit”.
  • Improved performance for larger Excel files with many larger Excel tables.
  • Improved notification for user when shapes or charts to being exported were incorrectly addressed. SlideFab will write a notification into respective target shapes.
Bug Fixes:
  • Merged cells when exporting tables led to incorrect duplicate content in merged cell areas.
  • Sometimes custom Powerpoint presentation designs can get corrupted. In these cases SlideFab ceased making slides. This is now fixed, although the corrupted design might not work after all.

How to easily automate creating slides with a Powerpoint chart from Excel

UPDATE: Check out an even simpler and faster way to automate this example using linked charts based on the new SlideFab 2 v1.5. Never the less, the approach below is still valid.

This video is based on a scenario where lots of data in Excel is used to create numerous slides with each having a Powerpoint chart. SlideFab will create the slides and update the data ranges for the charts automatically.

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Table spreading across slides

This video is based on a scenario where a table with 1,000 rows in an Excel table shall be brought to Powerpoint. As 1,000 rows are way too much for a single slide, the table shall be spread across multiple slides. Let’s call this Table Spreading. In this video the Slide Loop feature will be used to create 125 slides, where each one holds a Powerpoint table with 8 rows plus header.

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Loop Condition Example

This video is based on the “Hello World” example and and incorporates a loop condition. The loop condition can be used to not create slides, if it does not evaluate to true. In this example the loop condition is used, to leave out every second slide. So instead of all 6 slides of the “Hello World” example only slides 1,3 and 5 (candidate values “A”, “C” and “E”) will be created. 

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Output File Decomposition Example

This video is based on the “Hello World” example and goes one step further. This example is about output file decomposition. While the original example created 1 presentation containing 6 output slides (1 slide per loop), this video shows one output file can be created per loop (so 6 files with 1 slide each). When using output file decomposition, other features such as adding segments or sorting slides locally (per loop run) can be applied as well.

Again, this example is kept very simple. Of course, when the presentation template contains more than 1 slide, then the decomposed files will have more than 1 slide, too.

Here you will also find the Excel workbook and Powerpoint presentation file as download, which can be tried out with SlideFab 2 right away.