SAN FRANCISCO (03/19/2004) - Can any hour be longer than the one spent watching your company's chief financial officer point at a spreadsheet full of gray, unreadable numbers? Infommersion Inc.'s program Xcelsius can't give your CFO charisma, but it can enliven the presentation.
Xcelsius (US$195 for the Standard edition, $495 for the Professional) enables you to transform the contents of an Excel spreadsheet into an interactive Macromedia Flash file. Not only does the program translate dry numbers into attractive charts, tables, and maps, but it also lets you use sliders and gauges to alter figures and see immediately how those changes affect your original Excel calculations.
You can also export Xcelsius creations into an HTML file, a PowerPoint presentation, or an Outlook e-mail message so that anyone can view them; the resulting files operate just as the Xcelsius files do.
Using a shipping version of Xcelsius Professional proved fairly straightforward. First you import an Excel spreadsheet, and then you drag and drop any of 36 graphic elements onto the canvas. You can associate each element with a cell or series of cells.
However, some of the terminology involved is cryptic: When faced with the question of whether a gauge's 'Initial Limits Calculation' should be 'valueBased', 'zeroBased' or 'zeroCentered', my first reaction was, "Pat, can I buy a vowel?" Fortunately, the program's help file is solid and well organized.
Dedicated bean counters who use Xcelsius will find this bottom line: An investment of some study will yield a healthy return in viewers' interest.
Clever app makes Excel spreadsheets data more interesting, but is tricky to use at first.
Price when reviewed: Standard $195, Pro $495