Secrets of Powerpoint Charting – Embedding vs Linking

In this clip from the webinar “Secrets of PowerPoint Charting” from Nolan Haims and Business Watch Network — — Nolan talks about the differences between embedding charts and linking to charts in PowerPoint.

Now I want to talk about, oh, this ugly thing [shows error message]. Now, I know we’ve seen this. You’re lying if you have not seen this. You have never worked in PowerPoint Excel and not, at some point in your life, suffered from an unlinked chart, or a de-linked, or a missing link.

Essentially, what this is, is PowerPoint has a chart that has not been embedded. The data series from Excel has not been embedded, whenever, it might have been you, it might have been somebody else who brought that over from Excel, but it’s been linked, and what’s happened is that chart, that original Excel file, you have the chart, you can edit it and format it, but if you need to change the data, that Excel file is now missing, or it’s been renamed, or simply moved around, or IT came in and changed the server path, they’ve done that on me, and then it breaks all your links.

So, I don’t ever want anybody to see that and not understand what happened. Here’s how linking works. When you’re in Excel and you copy a chart — now, you don’t have to, you can create your chart in PowerPoint, but a lot of times people, or the workflows are coming from Excel, you paste your chart in Excel, you get this little popup down here, okay? I don’t know what it’s called, but that’s the popup. And you have five choices. Well, actually you have six. One of your choices is to do nothing, and if you escape and go to a different slide, or do whatever, if you do that, essentially if you do nothing, then your chart will be linked, that is the default behavior, which means all the data actually lives in that Excel chart, wherever it might be. And if it gets deleted, or whatever, and you need to change a number and you can’t find it to relink it, that’s it, game over.

I should point out you can relink a chart, but only on the PC, you can’t do it on the Mac. That is definitely one of the frustrations and differences with the Mac and PC. But here are your options, right? Just show you a little larger. Your first two options are to embed the workbook. Now, this is not the default. This is what I generally prefer to do for my workflows, but they’re legitimate workflows to link. You can either use the destination theme, meaning the PowerPoint theme you’re coming into, that’s generally what we want to do, or you can keep it looking exactly the way it did in Excel, there might be a reason for that.

The pros are that the data will always be editable, right now, in a million years from now, because all this data’s embedded in the PowerPoint file. The cons are it embeds the whole worksheet. Meaning, if you have a 20 meg Excel file, we’ve seen those, well, your PowerPoint now is 20 megs larger. Also, let’s say you only want the bar chart from tab two, and there’s some proprietary confidential information on tab 48, whoever has that PowerPoint slide has access to tab 48 and all that information. So yes, some HR people have been fired because they sent around salary data, because they didn’t know how this worked.

This is what I prefer because I’m working for clients, I’m not on their servers, and I’m sending it to other designers, and I always want that data available. But I understand it’s not for everybody. If you do want to link it, valid workflows, like if you’ve got accounting every week, updating the Excel file, and then you need to pull the chart every week on a repeating basis, then maybe you do want it linked. But again, it’s on you, you’ve got to keep track of that file.

And again, this whole confidential information and everything, whether you embed or link, the best thing, always, if you’re distributing outside of your organization, make a PDF. Unless the person you’re sending it to has to actively edit your PowerPoint file, don’t send them a PowerPoint file. Really, send them a PDF for so many reasons.

The last option here is a picture. It creates a low res photo, you can’t format it, don’t do it. Again, if you want to lock things down, make the PDF.

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