Accountants and other proficient producers (and perusers) of Excel spreadsheets know how dreadfully gray they can be. Even if you use well-crafted tables and different colors for different types of numbers (e.g., green for revenue exceeding target, red for revenue falling short), it’s difficult to quickly pick out the most relevant information in a large worksheet.
One quick and simple way to help the data stand out is to use icon sets, which is an Excel feature that visually depicts types of data circumstances such as budget variances. What do icon sets look like and how do they work? Find out in the short walk-through video above from Kelly Williams, CPA, Ph.D., co-author of the JofA’s Technology Q&A column and an assistant professor of accounting in the Jones College of Business at Middle Tennessee State University.
If you would like to follow along with the video, you can download this Excel file and go to the worksheet labeled “Icon Sets.” Note that the instructions in the video are based on Microsoft Excel 365 for PCs. Other versions of Excel may have slightly different steps.
This video originally was posted as part of the Technology Q&A item “2 Simple Ways to Visualize Data” in the January JofA.
— Jeff Drew (Jeff.Drew@aicpa-cima.com) is a JofA senior editor.