"Thanks so much for this constructive comparison. Little frenchy VBA amateur vs. almighty MSFT coder team … I am thrilled.
Lets review quickly your comparison table.
Number of charts : XL2010 also offers VariChart() in the conditional formatting menu… in the other hand, the win/loss is nothing but a column chart with 1 ; 0 or -1. This limited number of charts does not reflect MSFT’s Business Intelligence ambitions… at least when it comes to Excel. Let’s assume it’s a start.
Overall look : irrelevant from my point of view. Even w/ Zoom of 400% blocking is not noticeable, and specially not on printed reports.
Features : Even with tiny charts, we need some reference: a line to materialize a threshold or a target. XL2010 sparklines do not provide any reference and more important, do not offer the possibility to add a visual scale, a context … it looks good but you do not know what you are looking at. Clearly not enough to design usable dashboards.
Ease of use : SfE formulas are used like any other Excel formula… I agree however that the “formula wizard” offers limited features when UDFs are a bit complex. I could spend some time on SfE user interface to make the parameters more understandable…
Customization : The code is yours, it’s open-source… be fair, share your ideas and improvements on SfE’s blog, quid pro quo.
Stability : This is from my perspective SfE’s weak point, especially with XL2003. VBA events and many shapes to refresh are a cause of crash. SfE can also be painfully slow, inefficient coding and numerous shapes being the reason. I have been thinking of using .Net instead of VBA… but is it worth the effort with XL2010 at the corner ?
Grouping : True that XL2010 will make it “easier” (just quicker actually), but as a user, I prefer to see the formula and identify clearly the scale I am using. Using named ranges makes this so easy with SfE… your choice.
Ease of editing : Well, this is where I do not fully agree. SfE makes the formula easy to edit, plus you can use any nested formula inside SfE formula. I reckon however that only “advanced” excel users will fully appreciate this. Basic users (the ones that use Sum(a1:a2) and nothing else == > a vast majority) will prefer to tick a few boxes et voila.
Future additions : Except maybe a formula for creating quick Gantt chart, I would say that the toolbox is pretty complete. Improved “User Experience” would be the next priority (userforms, tick boxes, color picker, embedded help…). (well… less crash and more speed also !)
Price/cost : SfE is a great hobby.. priceless to me. Now, if Steve Balmer wants to include SfE features in XL2013… just let me know, we’ll talk $
As a bottom line, I would say that MSFT XL2010 is offering “Sparklines for the masses”, a simple solution that works for most users, but is definitely not enough for users who want to build more elaborated and comprehensive dashboards. But that’s maybe MSFT “SQL Server Reporting Services” job ?
SFE in the other hand, is a tool made by an “end user” with limited programming skills + great help from more advanced programmers, but with a much better understanding of what is required in a “decision making” process and dashboard construction (show a reference or target ; limited use of colors ; simple formulas if only mandatory parameters are used).
I am just frustrated that MSFT did not even consider looking at what SfE (and Bonavista and Bissantz) was offering before implementing their simplistic solution… serioulsy, the guys at MSFT France said “We don’t care about SfE, we have THE SAME in Office 2010″ … “THE SAME”… LOL"
Alex is founder of Data Driven Consulting, an independent consulting company that focuses on obtaining high quality data to facilitate effective business decisions. Data Driven Consulting specializes in a number of areas, including market research, dashboard and data presentation, and authoring of white papers and e-content.