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BizArch Graphics Add-In for Microsoft Excel

I use Microsoft Excel extensively - not just for "doing the numbers", but also for list management and as a drawing tool.

The drawing tools in Microsoft Office are quite powerful and more than adequate for my daily needs. Once you master them, you won't ever need Visio et al for those day-to-day drawing tasks. However, any time I've use the drawing tools within Word or Powerpoint, I eventually end up as a very frustrated bunny indeed! The reason is that these tools can never seem to decide if you're trying to click some drawing object or the underlying placeholder within the text or the slide. The crowning glory is then when "Whoosh!" the drawing, the placeholder and half of the - obviously unsaved - document disappear down some black Microsoft hole, never to be seen again.

Which is why I use Microsoft Excel extensively as a drawing tool. Because of the nature of the product ("rows and columns" as Vertume Default used to say about relational databases), there is a clear, logical separation between the cells and the objects drawn on top of them. Excel even differentiates between cursors, depending on what you're doing! And without even knowing it you're already in possession of a neat drawiung tool, which has shape libraries, intelligent connectors and other fine features.[Don't get me wrong, this is not Visio or Adobe Illustrator, but it certainly does 95% of what ever I need to do]. Elsewhere, you will find examples of various drawings that were originally created in in Excel and then transferred to Powerpoint.

Tip: Use Copy and then Paste Special/Bitmap to prevent Powerpoint from re-sizing fonts etc. and generally screwing up your nicely done graphic!

But I also use Excel as a Brainstorming/Structuring/Sequencing tool - basically fulfilling the (business) architect's basic instinct to draw while thinking.

Tip: Use Tools/Options/View/Gridlines to switch the gridlines off, for a nice whiteboard effect.

However, in this usage, the drawing process is somewhat tedious: Draw a rectangle, enter text, draw another one, enter more text, draw a connector and use it to join the two boxes - all done through the drawing toolbar! As a first step (of hopefully many) towards enhancing Excel to support my way of working, I built the BizArch Graphics Add-In, which you might like to try.

BizArch Graphics Toolbar for Microsoft Excel

The Add-In is just a simple toolbar, that contains the tools needed to do quick diagrams and graphics. Doing it as an Add-In means that it's available for use in any Excel workbook that you're using.

The buttons (from left to right) do the following:

The Help menu is fairly self-explanatory   BizArch Graphics Toolbar - Help Menu  

- the "Backround" item is a link to this page

To use the toolbar, just download it, copy it to where ever Excel stores the Add-Ins on your machine (use Tools/Add-Ins/Browse to find out) and then use Tools/Add-Ins/Browse to activate the BizArch functionality.

Sample graphics built using the BizArch Graphics Toolbar

Please let me know how you get on! Quick-Mail

Thanks to Allen Wyatt for his  online tips for getting this done!

 


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