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Xcelsius 2008 Dashboard Best Practices [Paperback]

Loren Abdulezer
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)

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Book Description

January 1, 2009 0672329956 978-0672329951 1


Using Xcelsius, you can create powerful, interactive dashboards, gather data from spreadsheets or databases, and deliver knowledge that can be instantly understood and acted upon. Now there’s a definitive, authoritative guide to making the most of Xcelsius 2008, the newest version of this breakthrough product.


Loren Abdulezer, editor-in-chief of Xcelsius Journal, shares insider’s knowledge that goes far beyond any other book or online help resource. Abdulezer introduces Xcelsius 2008, reviews its core concepts, and demonstrates the wide range of dashboards it can create. After you know what’s possible, you’ll go deep inside Xcelsius, gaining hands-on experience with every feature you need to master. You’ll learn how to quickly represent any data with charting components; use dials, gauges, and speedometers; incorporate multiple layers in your dashboards and visualizations; use Xcelsius to perform more useful analyses and manage more interactively; work with maps, demographics, and segmented data; create “smart data” and alerts; and much more.


Abdulezer offers tips and tricks you won’t find anywhere else. You’ll learn how to work with data that isn’t rock-solid--and even how to create your own custom components that go beyond Xcelsius’s built-in features. Whether you’re a business intelligence or database professional, power user, developer, or consultant, this book will help you create superior Xcelsius dashboards--and make better decisions.



  • Use Xcelsius 2008 to get better answers, identify emerging trends and opportunities, and manage more effectively
  • Learn hands-on, through step-by-step examples using real business data
  • Discover tips and tricks proven in real-world environments
  • Deliver dashboard content in whatever format works best: as HTML pages, PowerPoint presentations, PDF files, or Word documents
  • Fully leverage the information in your Excel spreadsheets--and go beyond Excel to use XML source data, too
  • Implement Xcelsius best practices drawn from the hard-won knowledge of the entire global user community



  • Registered owners of the book can find all this and more online:
  • All sample files used in the book
  • Additional guides and tutorials to help you build dashboards
  • Templates and example files for new dashboard interfaces

Introduction 1

Part I Xcelsius 2008 Fundamentals

1 Motivation for Using Xcelsius 2008     11

2 Showcase of Xcelsius 2008 Dashboards     33

3 Getting Familiar with Xcelsius 2008     43

4 Embedded Spreadsheets: The Secret Sauce of Xcelsius 2008     69

5 Using Charts and Graphs to Represent Data     127

6 Single Value Components: Dials, Gauges, Speedometers, and the Like     157

Part II Xcelsius 2008 Best Practices and Techniques

7 Using Multi-Layer Visibility in Your Dashboards and Visualizations     181

8 Managing Interactivity     203

9 Xcelsius and Statistics     229

10 Financial Analysis     257

11 Maps in Xcelsius     275

12 Smart Data and Alerts     297

13 Working with Less-Than-Optimal Data     315

14 Other Dashboard Techniques and Practices     337

Part III Advanced Features

15 XML and Data Connectivity     353

16 Creating Custom Components for Fun and Profit     371

Part IV Appendices

A Supported Spreadsheet Functions in Xcelsius 2008     401

B Xcelsius Product Family Comparison     415

C Xcelsius Best Practice Techniques and Hip Pocket Tips     425

Index     431

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Loren Abdulezer is CEO and president of Evolving Technologies Corporation, a New York-based technology consulting firm that specializes in visual data analysis. He has a long-standing record in the Xcelsius community and has been a staunch proponent of the technology since its early days.


Loren is the editor-in-chief of Xcelsius Journal (, an online magazine dedicated to users in the Xcelsius user community. Loren also started the website Xcelsius Best Practices ( Loren is the author of Excel Best Practices for Business and Escape from Excel Hell. He served as the technical editor of Crystal Xcelsius For Dummies. He can be reached at

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.



A broad and growing community of professionals regularly prepares or needs to prepare dashboards and interactive visualizations and reports. Like many of those other professionals, I have used Excel to create useful reports and dashboards. The problem is that unless I incorporated extensive amounts of one-off code, Excel lacked some essential features that I was looking for:

  • The ability to design a dashboard interface by dragging and dropping components on a canvas
  • The ability to map visual components to a "live" spreadsheet built using my Excel models

The ability to deploy simple, self-contained dashboards that are suited for visual data analysis by ordinary users

Those capabilities existed in Xcelsius 3.0. Two product generations later, Xcelsius 2008 has undergone a metamorphosis; Xcelsius now includes a well-honed and highly integrated spreadsheet and dashboard design environment, significantly greater spreadsheet functionality, more visual components and interface options, a revamped and expanded framework for data connectivity, and the ability to create entirely new custom-designed components on equal footing with built-in components.

This is great stuff. It sounds like everybody ought to be using Xcelsius 2008, for anything and everything. But Xcelsius 2008 isn't intended to be a jack-of-all-trades. First and foremost, Xcelsius 2008 is a serious tool for building interactive dashboards and intelligent visualizations. The secret to its power is how it is joined at the hip with spreadsheets.

Xcelsius 2008 is remarkably easy to use. From a dashboard layout perspective, everything is point and click. You don't need much in the way of spreadsheet prowess to start doing interesting and useful things with Xcelsius. This quick bang for the buck is like kindling wood in a furnace: It's enough to get a flame started, but it won't heat up the room. To get a roaring and self-sustaining fire, you need to take things to the next level.

So what is stopping you from building better dashboards? The biggest challenge holding most people back is lack of time. If you are busy worrying about monitoring and meeting production quotas, or allocating budgets among competing projects, you are probably not going to spend a lot of time improving on a dashboard design once you get it working. Maybe for an occasional dashboard, that's smart thinking. If your dashboard serves you well, you will no doubt use it to do more things. Who knows? Maybe you need to enable weekly or daily analysis in addition to monthly analysis.

Say that you want to add a second product line, monitored by a dashboard. You start with your already working dashboard design as your template and add more features. As you keep cloning, you are stepping up your maintenance responsibilities and possibly bloating your dashboard. At some point not far down the road, the dashboard capabilities plateau. It is not nearly agile enough to keep up with changing requirements or expectations. This is where best practices come into play. I know that time is premium for you. It is for everyone. To save you valuable time, I have worked out a wealth of best practices and techniques so that you don't need to reinvent the wheel.

In this book, I do a few other things:

  • Introduce you to the features you need to know. I get you started with setting up your Xcelsius workspace. I introduce you to essential components and show you how to use them. I help you build up your spreadsheet skills in an Xcelsius-centric way.
  • Show you how to use the new and important features of Xcelsius 2008 so that you can quickly transition to this newer technology.
  • Cover the essential components you will regularly be using in dashboards, from charts to dials, gauges, sliders, and maps. I cover the standard features such as drill down and alerts.
  • Show how to turbo-charge the various dashboard components so that they do things you wouldn't ordinarily expect. For instance, you'll learn how to use a single dial on a dashboard to set the values of dozens or hundreds of variables.
  • Show how to design simple and effective dashboard interfaces. When these need to be scaled up to do complex things, the designs don't change, and they down break down.
  • Describe how the preparation and processing of data, including techniques for validating and structuring of data, play a central role in dashboard best practices.
  • Devote whole chapters to constructing spreadsheet formulas embedded in dashboards, statistical analysis, financial analysis, and working with less–than-optimal data.
  • Show how to utilize features of Xcelsius 2008 for remote data connectivity, such as XML maps and Web Services.

Explain how to construct custom components.

The undercurrent that runs through this book is empowerment. Every step of the way, I show how you can work smarter by using best practices.

Loren Abdulezer
December 2008

© Copyright Pearson Education. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 488 pages
  • Publisher: Sams Publishing; 1 edition (January 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0672329956
  • ISBN-13: 978-0672329951
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 7.1 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #185,799 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Bible of Xcelsius! January 22, 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I've been working with Xcelsius since 3 years now and I have not seen a book on Xcelsius which is as detailed as this one. Although I learned a lot from Mike Alexander's Dummies book Crystal Xcelsius For Dummies (For Dummies (Computer/Tech)), this one is different. Learning Xcelsius is different from effectively using Xcelsius. This book will help you understand and implement Xcelsius for your Dashboard Solutions. The humongous list of best practices that Loren put together in this book is very impressive. I thought it would be a skinny book with few best practices, however when I received the shipment, I was amazed to see that it was a pretty fat book (400+ pages). I was so Curious to know how he came up with so many best practices. When started reading about it, I was amazed to know that there were actually a lot of best practices that I didn't knew. Almost 70% of them were new to me.

From Fundamentals to Advanced features, Loren touched every aspect of Xcelsius Dashboard Design. Although there was a Chapter (Chapter 15) dedicated to Data Connectivity to create Live Dashboards, I would have been thoroughly satisfied if it had more information on other types of data connections available in Xcelsius 2008. Nevertheless, this book is a great compilation of Xcelsius Best Practices.

A must have for any Xcelsius Developer (Novice or Pro).

Kalyan Verma
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Xcelsius Guru Bookshelf Favorite March 17, 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is rated A+ by the Xcelsius Guru Network! Business Objects should consider sending it with each Xcelsius license they sell. With such a limited amount of material available surrounding Xcelsius and the 'Best Practices' required to efficiently use the tool, Loren does a great job to serve every level of developer:

1) Beginners - Finally get to understand how to use the cool correctly from the start!
2) Advanced users - Now have the ability to gain step by step instruction on how to clean up their existing models to enhance performance and leverage the softwware for more advanced applications!
3) Gurus - Get to brush on a few tips, learn from a fellow Guru and finally have a daily reference for Xcelsius!

We think Loren did a great job and this book is currently rated #1 in our Xcelsius Guru Network bookshelf. It's simple a must have for the Xcelsius developer.

The Xcelsius Gurus
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good tutorial June 3, 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Abdulezer's book is an excellent tutorial on Xcelsius 2008. I've now worked through the first 8 chapters and have learned much about how to use the application effectively. Be sure to download the useful example files .
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars eXcellent resource for eXcelling with Xcelsius May 27, 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I've spent a lot of time in 2008 and 2009 creating Xcelsius dashboards for various clients. A book that I have found very helpful is Loren Abdulezer's Xcelsius 2008 Dashboard Best Practices. According to the bio on the back of the book, Loren is editor-in-chief of Xcelsius Journal, the online magazine for Xcelsius users.

Loren's book provides a comprehensive view on Xcelsius 2008 functionality including samples, which can be downloaded here from the Xcelsius Journal web site. The book contains 16 chapters organized into three sections: Xcelsius 2008 Fundamentals, Xcelsius 2008 Best Practices and Techniques, and Advanced Features. As an IT professional who didn't use Excel much before Xcelsius, I really appreciate how Loren brings his extensive knowledge of Excel to the material. This includes treatment of statistics, financial analysis and "less-than-optimal" (uh, dirty?) data.

In the "Advanced Features" section, Chapter 15 deals with XML and Data Connectivity. I would have preferred a more robust treatment of Query as a Web Service (QaaWS) and Live Office. But "rather than attempt a cursory across-the-board discussion, this chapter outlines from a hands-on perspective pragmatic issues and techniques for accessing XML data, particularly Excel XML maps". Of course, treatment of QaaWS and Live Office would have required a big investment in sample universes, reports, BIAR files, etc.

The last chapter, Chapter 16, is about "Creating Custom Components for Fun and Profit" using the Xcelsius Component SDK. Many Business Objects professionals don't code applications, but the chapter helps Xcelsius developers stick their toe into the water with Adobe Flex Builder and ActionScript/Flash/SWF development.

The bottom line? If you're an Xcelsius 2008 user, this book belongs on your shelf.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Superb, practical information October 19, 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I've used Xcelsius "lightly" for several years, particularly to build interactive "ValueDialog models" for our business. Several new projects created a need to enhance and extend the use of Xcelsius for interactive, real time analysis. This book lives up to the title claim of Best Practices in many ways. It certainly goes well beyond the User Guide in explaining HOW to apply the components and capabilities. I have not yet tried the download examples, but I anticipate they will take my overall rating to 5.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must buy if you are using Xcelsius 2008 July 1, 2009
I have looked long and hard for a book like this, great explaination of the topic and downloadable examples.

Its a must have is you are developing dashboards with Xcelsius. If you haven't tried this product you should, you will be a hero with your C Suite!!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn about...
This book is very well written and the examples are easy to follow and provide excellent learning reinforcement. Read more
Published 7 months ago by David Hersch
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a bad book but the customer service experience left a lot to be...
I bought this book for a work project but it did not include the sample files and the website associated with those files had expired. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Len
4.0 out of 5 stars solid title
Good book, well laid out and presented. This is a solid title that will definitely be of use to you - whether you are new to the app or comfortable with creating Xcelsius output. Read more
Published on September 19, 2011 by azjmw
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book very useful for reference
Great book, I plan to use it for reference at work and have already found good uses from material found in it. Thanks!
Published on August 23, 2011 by joe
2.0 out of 5 stars Painful to follow.
Though the book is good in its content, its very difficult to follow the examples with the sample data the author provided. The steps just don't match.
Published on June 18, 2011 by MightyIndian
2.0 out of 5 stars Hit or miss
While there is some good and useful information in this book (HIT) there is also confusion and omissions that make it difficult to follow along (MISS). Read more
Published on February 25, 2011 by Tiger Burrito
1.0 out of 5 stars Nothing good to see here folks, move along...
I feel like there should be a highway patrolman standing by this train wreck of a book saying "Nothing good to see here folks, move along... Read more
Published on December 28, 2010 by GHillam
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Book
Its a good book if you already know something or else its waste. It does not explain the Excel formulas properly in a easy way. Read more
Published on November 27, 2010 by Alok
3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent technical reference, but poor dashboard best practices
Since the organization I work for recently purchased a Business Objects XI package that includes Xcelsius 2008, I picked up a copy of 'Xcelsius 2008 Dashboard Best Practices'. Read more
Published on June 23, 2010 by BRA
3.0 out of 5 stars Xcelcius 2008 Dashboard Best Practices Review
The book may be useful to get an idea of what is Xcelcius and how to use it. For me, the most essential components of live connection to external data sources and applications are... Read more
Published on April 24, 2010 by Mreviewer
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