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Friday, November 20, 2009

Sparklines in Excel

Sparklines (example above) are a simple means of including quantitative visuals in lines of text, conceived of by Edward Tufte. There has been recently much ado about Microsoft applying for a patent on sparklines, without mentioning Tufte's name as prior art. Tufte himself comments. I am always suspicious of criticism of Microsoft, since they are such an easy target. It turns out that the patent applied for is more of a view of how sparklines can be used within Excel. Much more reasonable. Not sure of the legal implications, but at the very least the writers of the application should have indicated their provenance. What this means or if it will be approved, remains to be seen. Another example of that patent rules should be reworked to record and promote creativity and aid creators, not hinder them.

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