In issue 18
, published in 2006, we talked about Edward Tufte's concept of sparklines. Since then there's been more published material on SAS and sparklines, most notably Paul OldenKamp's SGF 2008 paper
entitled "An Interpretation of Sparkline Graphs and Their Creation with SAS® Software". Paul very kindly refers to issue 18 of NOTE:
Sparklines are a tremendously rich means of communicating information in a small space. BI tools such as QlikView now include sparklines as a standard graphical object.
Here's our original article:
is a world renowned expert on information graphics, i.e. the science of presenting information in a graphical format. In his recent publication named Beautiful Evidence
, Mr Tufte formally introduced the concept of sparklines - small, high resolution graphics embedded in a context of words, numbers, or images. You can read large parts of a draft of the sparklines section of Mr Tufte's book in the discussion thread
he started on his site in 2004.
As illustrated in Mr Tufte's book, sparklines are an extremely powerful means of communicating information. I think they're at their most powerful when used within a paragraph of text, almost as if they were a word. For example, we had some very hot weather earlier this month, but it's now reduced to a more comfortable level, as you can see:
. The sparkline neatly conveys all of the information without interrupting the flow or layout of the text. There are many variations on the sparklines theme, all of which are discussed in Beautiful Evidence
If you want to experiment with using sparklines, you might like to try BitWorking's sparkline generator
. It's a neat and simple web-based means of getting a sparkline for your data. Alternatively, if you visit Bissantz's page on sparklines
, you'll see that they produce SparkMaker (an add-in for Microsoft Office that lets you create your own sparklines in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, or HTML documents) and SparkFonts (TrueType Fonts for the character-oriented generation of sparklines). And finally, there are plenty of macros and add-ins for producing sparklines within Excel - just use your favourite search engine..
However, as a SAS practitioner, I'm sure you're thinking to yourself "I'll bet SAS/GRAPH can do sparklines neatly", and you'd be right of course! The following basic macro, and example invocation, produces a very effective sparkline: