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How to create a Then vs. Now interactive chart in Excel?

You have been there before.

Trying to compare last year numbers with this year, or last quarter with this quarter.

Today, let us learn how to create an interactive to chart to understand then vs. now.

Demo of Then vs. Now interactive chart

First, take a look the completed chart below. This is what you will be creating.

Inspiration for this chart

Creating Then vs. Now chart in Excel

1. Arrange data

As usual, the first step is to get the data in to Excel. Structure your data like this.

2. Insert a combo box control to select a region

Since our chart will display values for one region at a time, we need a mechanism to let user control which region is displayed. We will use a combo box control do this. Follow these steps.

  1. Go to developer ribbon and insert combo box form control.
  2. Right click on the combo box and go to format control.
  3. Set up input range to list of regions in your data.
  4. Set up cell link to a blank cell in your workbook.

3. Fetch selected region’s data

Now that we have a combo box to select which region to show in the chart, next step is to fetch data for selected region. You can use either VLOOKUP or INDEX formulas to do it.

Using VLOOKUP formula:

Assuming region name is in D17. and data is in values table, write:

=VLOOKUP(D17, values, 2, false)

to get 2nd column (then sales) value.

Using INDEX formula:

Assuming region number is in D16. and data is in values table, write:


4. Create a chart showing then to now movement

Next step is to create a chart that would show a line going from then value to now value. Lets take a closer look the line to understand how to make it in Excel.

We can create this chart with either XY (scatter) plot or line chart. Lets go with scatter plot.

In your workbook, set up a table like this:

Then, select the above and create a scatter plot. Select the scatter plot with connecting lines.

5. Formatting the chart

Since we want to show a thick circle at the beginning of then value and arrow at the end of now value. lets go ahead and do the formatting song and dance.

Formatting the first point:

  1. Select the first point of then values (you need to click once on it, take 3 deep breaths, click again and sacrifice

    a goat).

  2. Press CTRL+1 to format the data point.
  3. Go to Marker options and select built in marker and use the circle symbol.

Formatting the last point:

  1. Select the last point (same as above, but this time sacrifice a chicken)
  2. Format the data point.
  3. Go to line style, select End type and choose arrow.

Formatting the horizontal axis:

  1. Select horizontal (x) axis and press CTRL+1
  2. Set axis minimum to 1, maximum to 6.
  3. Click ok and delete the axis as we do not need it on the chart.

6. Adding “Break-up” of now values chart

This is easy, Just select fetched break-up values for selected region and create a bar chart. Format it as per your fancy.

7. Put everything together

Place the combo box, scatter plot and bar chart together in a nice fashion. Add a surrounding box shape so that everything looks like one report.

Add a descriptive title on the top. If possible, make chart title dynamic so that you can show the selected region name and % change in it.

8. Your Then vs. Now chart is ready

That is all. Your Then vs. Now chart is ready. Go ahead and flaunt it.

Download the chart workbook

Click here to download the chart workbook and play with it. Examine the formulas, chart settings and shapes to understand how this is set up.

Do you make then vs. now charts?

I think about half the charts made businesses around the world fall in to this category. I make these type of charts all the time. I use a variety of chart types to convey this information. Thermometer chart. waterfall chart and conditionally formatted tables are some of my favorite techniques.

What about you? Do you create then vs. now charts? what type of charts do you use? Please share your techniques and ideas using comments.

Learn more…

If you are not working in a cave or behind a huge stack of desks, chances are your job involves communicating for a living. Go ahead and read-up below articles to learn how to communicate with charts better, when it comes to then vs. now situations.

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