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Xcelsius 2008 Dashboard Best Practices [NOOK Book]



Using Xcelsius, you can create powerful, interactive dashboards, gather data from spreadsheets or databases, and deliver knowledge that can be instantly understood and acted upon. Now there?s a definitive, authoritative guide to making the most of Xcelsius 2008, the newest version of this breakthrough product.

Loren Abdulezer, editor-in-chief of Xcelsius Journal, shares ...

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Xcelsius 2008 Dashboard Best Practices

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Using Xcelsius, you can create powerful, interactive dashboards, gather data from spreadsheets or databases, and deliver knowledge that can be instantly understood and acted upon. Now there’s a definitive, authoritative guide to making the most of Xcelsius 2008, the newest version of this breakthrough product.

Loren Abdulezer, editor-in-chief of Xcelsius Journal, shares insider’s knowledge that goes far beyond any other book or online help resource. Abdulezer introduces Xcelsius 2008, reviews its core concepts, and demonstrates the wide range of dashboards it can create. After you know what’s possible, you’ll go deep inside Xcelsius, gaining hands-on experience with every feature you need to master. You’ll learn how to quickly represent any data with charting components; use dials, gauges, and speedometers; incorporate multiple layers in your dashboards and visualizations; use Xcelsius to perform more useful analyses and manage more interactively; work with maps, demographics, and segmented data; create “smart data” and alerts; and much more.

Abdulezer offers tips and tricks you won’t find anywhere else. You’ll learn how to work with data that isn’t rock-solid--and even how to create your own custom components that go beyond Xcelsius’s built-in features. Whether you’re a business intelligence or database professional, power user, developer, or consultant, this book will help you create superior Xcelsius dashboards--and make better decisions.


  • Use Xcelsius 2008 to get better answers, identify emerging trends and opportunities, and manage more effectively
  • Learn hands-on, through step-by-step examples using real business data
  • Discover tips and tricks proven in real-world environments
  • Deliver dashboard content in whatever format works best: as HTML pages, PowerPoint presentations, PDF files, or Word documents
  • Fully leverage the information in your Excel spreadsheets--and go beyond Excel to use XML source data, too
  • Implement Xcelsius best practices drawn from the hard-won knowledge of the entire global user community


  • Registered owners of the book can find all this and more online:
  • All sample files used in the book
  • Additional guides and tutorials to help you build dashboards
  • Templates and example files for new dashboard interfaces
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780768685787
  • Publisher: Pearson Education
  • Publication date: 1/5/2009
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 488
  • Sales rank: 1,209,289
  • File size: 18 MB
  • Note: This product may take a few minutes to download.

Meet the Author

Loren Abdulezer is CEO and president of Evolving Technologies Corporation, a New York-based technology consulting firm that specializes in visual data analysis. He has a long-standing record in the Xcelsius community and has been a staunch proponent of the technology since its early days.

Loren is the editor-in-chief of Xcelsius Journal (, an online magazine dedicated to users in the Xcelsius user community. Loren also started the website Xcelsius Best Practices ( Loren is the author of Excel Best Practices for Business and Escape from Excel Hell. He served as the technical editor of Crystal Xcelsius For Dummies. He can be reached at

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Part I Xcelsius 2008 Fundamentals

1 Motivation for Using Xcelsius 2008 11

2 Showcase of Xcelsius 2008 Dashboards 33

3 Getting Familiar with Xcelsius 2008 43

4 Embedded Spreadsheets: The Secret Sauce of Xcelsius 2008 69

5 Using Charts and Graphs to Represent Data 127

6 Single Value Components: Dials, Gauges, Speedometers, and the Like 157

Part II Xcelsius 2008 Best Practices and Techniques

7 Using Multi-Layer Visibility in Your Dashboards and Visualizations 181

8 Managing Interactivity 203

9 Xcelsius and Statistics 229

10 Financial Analysis 257

11 Maps in Xcelsius 275

12 Smart Data and Alerts 297

13 Working with Less-Than-Optimal Data 315

14 Other Dashboard Techniques and Practices 337

Part III Advanced Features

15 XML and Data Connectivity 353

16 Creating Custom Components for Fun and Profit 371

Part IV Appendices

A Supported Spreadsheet Functions in Xcelsius 2008 401

B Xcelsius Product Family Comparison 415

C Xcelsius Best Practice Techniques and Hip Pocket Tips 425

Index 431

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Preface Preface

A broad and growing community of professionals regularly prepares or needs to prepare dashboards and interactive visualizations and reports. Like many of those other professionals, I have used Excel to create useful reports and dashboards. The problem is that unless I incorporated extensive amounts of one-off code, Excel lacked some essential features that I was looking for:

• The ability to design a dashboard interface by dragging and dropping components on a canvas
• The ability to map visual components to a "live" spreadsheet built using my Excel models

The ability to deploy simple, self-contained dashboards that are suited for visual data analysis by ordinary users

Those capabilities existed in Xcelsius 3.0. Two product generations later, Xcelsius 2008 has undergone a metamorphosis; Xcelsius now includes a well-honed and highly integrated spreadsheet and dashboard design environment, significantly greater spreadsheet functionality, more visual components and interface options, a revamped and expanded framework for data connectivity, and the ability to create entirely new custom-designed components on equal footing with built-in components.

This is great stuff. It sounds like everybody ought to be using Xcelsius 2008, for anything and everything. But Xcelsius 2008 isn't intended to be a jack-of-all-trades. First and foremost, Xcelsius 2008 is a serious tool for building interactive dashboards and intelligent visualizations. The secret to its power is how it is joined at the hip with spreadsheets.

Xcelsius 2008 is remarkably easy to use. From a dashboard layout perspective, everything is point and click. You don't need muchin the way of spreadsheet prowess to start doing interesting and useful things with Xcelsius. This quick bang for the buck is like kindling wood in a furnace: It's enough to get a flame started, but it won't heat up the room. To get a roaring and self-sustaining fire, you need to take things to the next level.

So what is stopping you from building better dashboards? The biggest challenge holding most people back is lack of time. If you are busy worrying about monitoring and meeting production quotas, or allocating budgets among competing projects, you are probably not going to spend a lot of time improving on a dashboard design once you get it working. Maybe for an occasional dashboard, that's smart thinking. If your dashboard serves you well, you will no doubt use it to do more things. Who knows? Maybe you need to enable weekly or daily analysis in addition to monthly analysis.

Say that you want to add a second product line, monitored by a dashboard. You start with your already working dashboard design as your template and add more features. As you keep cloning, you are stepping up your maintenance responsibilities and possibly bloating your dashboard. At some point not far down the road, the dashboard capabilities plateau. It is not nearly agile enough to keep up with changing requirements or expectations. This is where best practices come into play. I know that time is premium for you. It is for everyone. To save you valuable time, I have worked out a wealth of best practices and techniques so that you don't need to reinvent the wheel.

In this book, I do a few other things:
• Introduce you to the features you need to know. I get you started with setting up your Xcelsius workspace. I introduce you to essential components and show you how to use them. I help you build up your spreadsheet skills in an Xcelsius-centric way.
• Show you how to use the new and important features of Xcelsius 2008 so that you can quickly transition to this newer technology.
• Cover the essential components you will regularly be using in dashboards, from charts to dials, gauges, sliders, and maps. I cover the standard features such as drill down and alerts.
• Show how to turbo-charge the various dashboard components so that they do things you wouldn't ordinarily expect. For instance, you'll learn how to use a single dial on a dashboard to set the values of dozens or hundreds of variables.
• Show how to design simple and effective dashboard interfaces. When these need to be scaled up to do complex things, the designs don't change, and they down break down.
• Describe how the preparation and processing of data, including techniques for validating and structuring of data, play a central role in dashboard best practices.
• Devote whole chapters to constructing spreadsheet formulas embedded in dashboards, statistical analysis, financial analysis, and working with less–than-optimal data.
• Show how to utilize features of Xcelsius 2008 for remote data connectivity, such as XML maps and Web Services.

Explain how to construct custom components.

The undercurrent that runs through this book is empowerment. Every step of the way, I show how you can work smarter by using best practices.

Loren Abdulezer
December 2008

© Copyright Pearson Education. All rights reserved.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 8 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 28, 2009

    Really helpful and then some

    I've worked with Excel for many years and my consultant practice is now being transformed by the need for dashboards; taking those cumbersome spreadsheets and making them interactive and visual. This is not an easy task and I've had to sub-contract a lot (not great for cash flow). Having made some headway in learning the Xcelsius product I have some knowledge under my belt, but I was really eager to get this book and I have not been disappointed. <BR/><BR/>Some examples might be intimidating at first, but when I work through the examples I suddenly see my revenue flow exploding. I think this is my own personal stimulus package! There are really clever solutions that go beyond the expected.One aspect I especially appreciate is the realistic approach, that is, the acknowledgment of 'dirty data', that is data that mucks up both a spreadsheet and a dashboard because of human inconsistencies, and what to do about it. How refreshing and how practical! I also got into how to handle data that changes on a recurring basis and how to tweak Xcelsius to layer panels and tabs to make them do whatever you want.Xcelsius right out of the box left me frustrated at times, but I've already found solutions in this book that I never would have figured out on my own.<BR/><BR/>Another thing I like is that this author really knows his stuff and does not talk down to the 'dashboard' uninitiated. This area is a challenge and I'm happy a book was finally published that really helps me out.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 12, 2009

    A Great Resource for the Topic

    I am new to the topic of Dashboard design and found this book quite valuable. The examples presented were quite appropriate and easy to follow. I downloaded a trial version of the Xcelsius software and followed the guidelines regarding service packs. All of the sample files worked -so I'm a little perplexed by the Anonymous reviewer's comments.<BR/><BR/>As I continue to expand my skill set, I am happy to have this resource.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2009

    Leaves a lot to be desired

    The book is not for beginners -- if you don't already know Xcelsius -- don't bother with this book. If you do know Xcelsuis, be prepared to spend hours trying to figure out the examples -- the authour does not give clear and detailed explanations of his examples -- leaves too much unexplained for the reader. I also found that the examples don't all work. A very frustrating experience. The author obviously knows the product extremenly well but completely unable to teach others!<BR/><BR/>If you are an Excel guru, have the time to spend hours trying to figure out the exmples and know Xcelsius already, then this might be a book for you.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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