Excel Chart Formatting Unstable

  • I use Excel to study data and to teach math and science (at times). I find it a useful way to collect problem definitions, solutions and to display data relationships graphically.

    I have been doing this, on and off, for decades. Up until Excel 2003, it was relatively easy to control the graphic output and formats - not so in the 'modern' Excel.


    When I add a set of data to an existing chart, Excel 'helps out' and changes aspect ratios (locked or not), line styles, etc. to 'better present the data' - its guesses, however, are almost always wrong for me.


    I usually have to make several printouts with slight data changes on each - and each time I change the data, I have to go through a long and frustrating ritual to restore basic things - like the chart size and aspect ratios of the axis (and of course, line styles, etc.


    The problem is exacerbated if I have to bring in an entirely new set of data into the same graph. All formatting has to be done over.


    I tried using the 'save as template' trick - but that either doesn't work (anymore?) or I am missing steps.


    Additionally (and possibly related) the general spreadsheet formatting is apparently unstable as well. I regularly format my cells to make them more readable and 'neat' - things like centering, right or left justification with offset, number formatting, etc. Lately, I've noticed that Excel will 'revert' to other formatting on cells I have formatted. This is (I believe) a recent 'addition' to the unwanted features list.


    I am not a VBA programmer - but if it takes that to break Excel out of it's 'self-righteous' AI behavior, I am willing to start.


    My general sense of things is that Microsoft has lost interest in sustaining the graphing features of Excel. Perhaps it wants us to use another product. Other than basic charts (using built-in charts and defaults) the tools for adjusting the charts do not work reliably for me. I cannot just force a chart to a given scale, lock the aspect ratio, and have the data go where it can but not reformat my chart (as I can do in Word, forexample) - and I cannot 'click on a line' of data and enter a formatting window that is capable of changing the line type and color, etc. The menus are available, but either are grayed out or changing attributes in the list has no effect on the curve. It is as if the 'focus' aspect of selecting an object does not work consistently or coherently with the menus.


    A more prolonged (functionality has declined over time) degraded (but wanted) feature is the 'grouping' function - something I regularly use to help avoid sudden unexpected changes in the relationships between objects I've drawn on my screen. The function is supposed to show up when you select 2 or more items. In the unwanted 'disappearing menus' features of current Microsoft programs, this 'choice' is not available many times when it should be. There is some 'decision' being made that the choice to group is not what I really need or want 'right now' - in the AI's opinion. In some cases, I can hunt around on one of the selections until I find a place where right-clicking displays the desired menu (including the Group... function, but many times it just doesn't appear. All of the Microsoft 'help' files suggest it is simple to use. I would like a key-stroke command to group items (like in the 'old days').


    This is kind of a long introduction to a basic request - how do we get back control of our wonderful Excel tool?


    Visi-calc and Lotus-123 were my first encounters with Spreadsheets - and are among the most useful 'general' programs - second only to Word Processors. The basic concept of being able to see all the elements of a calculation and to display graphically the relationships - I only wish it had been available when I was in high school or college! I never even knew some of the capabilities of Lotus-123 until the "Magellan" text interface was available (Magellan was like a text based modern Siri or Cortana - you told the program in English what you wanted it to do, and it would just do it). Excel was a marvelous upgrade to Visi-calc and Lotus-123 - and I was happy to migrate my programs. But over time, while the speed and capabilities have noticeably improved, simple attention to user accessibility has, in my opinion, declined. Microsoft used to proudly boast that it's unified interface (between programs) made it easier for users to pick up and use their programs. Somewhere, along the way from 2003 to 2007 to 2013 to ... the focus on the user has dimmed way down. When once, microsoft spent a lot of energy (like the founders of Dropbox) finding out how users approach a program, they are now apparently counting on 'someone else' to train users before they start using the Microsoft programs. Sad really.


    Back to my request: How do we get back control of our wonderful Excel tool? I want to focus on the value creation - not the workarounds for an unnecessary AI.