3 Excel Dashboard Tips You Have to Try

Brad Jones 03-11-2017

An Excel dashboard Visualize Your Data & Make Your Spreadsheets User Friendly With An Excel Dashboard Sometimes, a simple spreadsheet format isn't engaging enough to make your data accessible. A dashboard allows you to present your most important data in an easy-to-digest format. Read More is a great way to show off the most pertinent pieces of data from a big, unwieldy spreadsheet. Whether it’s for your own reference, or to pass on information to others, it’s a great way of separating the wheat from the chaff.


In this guide, I’m going to produce a dashboard that will serve as a companion to my annual rewatch of the special Halloween episodes of The Simpsons. However, you can apply the same methods to anything from a workout planner to a sales report.

How to Create Your Dashboard in Excel

These three techniques will transform a standard Excel dashboard into a useful, aesthetically pleasing resource that will save you time and effort in the long run. The basic setup 5 Excel Document Settings You Must Never Forget to Check When you pick an Excel template or share a spreadsheet, it may contain custom settings that you don't want anyone to see. Always check these settings. Read More of any Excel dashboard is much the same. The standard is to use one or more sheets to do work behind-the-scenes so the dashboard itself is neat and tidy.

1. Add a Graph to the Dashboard With the Camera Tool

The Camera tool is very useful for our purpose. It makes it easy to display a section of another part of your spreadsheet exactly where you want it. We’re going to use it to place a graph on our dashboard.

First, we need to set up our chart.

excel dashboard tips add graph camera tool


As you can see, I’ve kept things relatively simple for the time being. It just tracks the IMDB user score of each episode. Next, create another sheet called Dashboard if you haven’t done so already.

excel dashboard tips add graph camera tool

Next, select the area of your spreadsheet that contains your chart, and click the Camera button — you may have to add it to the Quick Access Toolbar. Head to your Dashboard sheet and click where you want to place the chart.

excel dashboard tips add graph camera tool


You should end up with something like the above. There’s no need to make any precise adjustments right now, just insert it into the Dashboard sheet. Once we have all our components ready, we can tackle our layout.

2. Implement a Dropdown Menu to Switch Between Items

The next thing I want to add to my dashboard is a dropdown menu How to Create Interactive Excel Charts With the INDEX Formula We'll show you how to use the INDEX formula and a basic drop-down menu to create interactive Excel charts. This simple process will turn static charts into dynamic information hubs. Read More that allows the user to select an individual episode, and see relevant details. A dashboard is meant to offer up information at a glance, so this is a good way to make sure that it’s not overloaded.

Preparing Our Data

To set this up, we need to return to the sheet where we’re keeping our data. Copy and paste the headers from your table further down the page.

excel dashboard tips dropdown menu


You’ll also see that I’ve added a 1 as a placeholder, highlighted in yellow. This will play a crucial role in the INDEX function Search Excel Spreadsheets Faster: Replace VLOOKUP With INDEX and MATCH Still using VLOOKUP to search for information in your spreadsheet? Here's how INDEX and MATCH can provide a better solution. Read More we’re about to add.

Copy this code into the leftmost cell under the table headers you just pasted.

=INDEX(A2:G11, $A$29, 0)

You’ll need to make changes to reflect your spreadsheet. The first group of cells should cover all of your data, minus the headers. The second is the placeholder number we just added, and the third can be left as zero — we’re not specifying a column in this case.

Drag that formula out to fill the whole row.


excel dashboard tips dropdown menu

Above, you’ll see that I changed the placeholder number to a 2, and the cells repopulated with information from the second row of cells. This is the basis for our dropdown menu.

Adding Data to the Dashboard

It’s time to use our old friend the Camera tool. Select a cell with information you want to include on the dashboard, click the icon, then head to the Dashboard sheet and place it where it needs to be.

excel dashboard tips dropdown menu

Again, there’s no great need to make things look aesthetically pleasing just yet. We’re concentrating on the skeleton of our dashboard for the time being. Head back to the sheet containing the data and change the number manually, to see if the values in the dashboard change.

excel dashboard tips dropdown menu

My spreadsheet works just fine, so I’m going to move onto adding the dropdown menu.

Head to the Developer tab and choose the Combo Box.

excel dashboard tips dropdown menu

Place it wherever you like, then right-click it and select Format Control.

For the Input range, enter the range of cells you want to draw from, and for Cell link, enter the cell that we added a number to. In both cases, remember to add a reference to the sheet that they’re on.

excel dashboard tips dropdown menu

Your dropdown menu should now work as intended. Test it out.

excel dashboard tips dropdown menu

3. Add a Schedule for Your Dashboard Tasks

Finally, we’re going to add a simple way of scheduling tasks. Completing my Treehouse of Horror rewatch in time for Halloween means keeping to a strict schedule 5 Ways to Auto-Schedule Your Day Do all the small things get in the way of your productivity? Rather than getting exasperated over things you can't control, plan ahead and auto-schedule some of the things you can control. Read More . I want my dashboard to automatically tell me exactly which episode I need to view on any given day.

To implement this, we’re going to head to the sheet containing our data, and add a new column at the far-left of the document.

excel dashboard tips schedule tasks

I’ve added the date that I plan to watch each episode. In another context, you might add the deadline for a particular task 9 Best Time Management Tools for Staying Organized The time management tools shown here will assist you with making the most of your days. Suitable for any business or personal situation. This is the time to organize your life! Read More . At the bottom of the column, I’ve used =TODAY() to produce a cell that always displays the current date.

Next, I’m going to insert the following formula into the cell directly to the right:

=VLOOKUP(A12, A2:B11, 2, FALSE)

You can see how this looks below.

excel dashboard tips schedule tasks

The first cell points to today’s date, then the range of cells specifies where VLOOKUP should Search Excel Spreadsheets Faster: Replace VLOOKUP With INDEX and MATCH Still using VLOOKUP to search for information in your spreadsheet? Here's how INDEX and MATCH can provide a better solution. Read More try find a match Search Excel Spreadsheets Faster: Replace VLOOKUP With INDEX and MATCH Still using VLOOKUP to search for information in your spreadsheet? Here's how INDEX and MATCH can provide a better solution. Read More .

The number 2 dictates that the result should be drawn from the second column along, and FALSE confirms that we’re only looking for an exact match.

excel dashboard tips schedule tasks

This works great, so we’re going to fill the rest of the row with the formula, then use the Camera tool once again to add this information to the dashboard.

excel dashboard tips schedule tasks

Now we have a considerable amount of information to display on our dashboard. It’s time to start tweaking the design.

Dashboard Design

This stage of dashboard creation is all about making your own aesthetic choices How to Change the Look and Feel of Your Windows 10 Desktop Want to know how to make Windows 10 look better? Use these simple customizations to make Windows 10 your own. Read More . However, it’s important to remember that our finished product is meant to offer up information at a glance, so large fonts and contrasting colors are always a good idea.

My first choice was to the Page Layout tab and untick the box marked Print under Gridlines. All our information is coming from another sheet, so the grid isn’t particularly useful. I also used the Format Cells menu to change the background color to an appropriately Simpons-like shade of yellow.

excel dashboard tips dashboard design

This doesn’t look particularly aesthetically pleasing just yet, but we’re still very early in the process! Next, head to the data sheet so we can adjust the cells that are being served up on our dashboard. We’re going to change colors and fonts over there, before heading back to the dashboard sheet to tackle layout.

excel dashboard tips dashboard design

My first move is to change all the text to a condensed version of Futura, a typeface commonly used by the show.

excel dashboard tips dashboard design

Next, I introduced a Halloween-themed black-and-orange color scheme that would contrast well against the yellow background.

excel dashboard tips dashboard design

At this point, I decided to return to the data sheet to tweak some cells. The ones containing a number or a year seemed a little too wide for the data in question.

excel dashboard tips dashboard design

This is our finished dashboard. The top-right hand section will update based on the current date, and the lower section will change depending on the dropdown selection. It’s clear, it’s concise, and it offers up a good amount of information without being overbearing.

Try Your Own Take

The dashboard I’ve put together above is specifically designed for one particular purpose. However, the same techniques have a wide variety of different applications.

For example, understanding how to use the TODAY function in conjunction with other formulas can be used for various task scheduling purposes. Similarly, the Camera tool is about as flexible as it gets.

The key is establishing what your dashboard needs to do, and determining how Excel can facilitate that 10 Easy Excel Timesavers You Might Have Forgotten These ten tips are sure to minimize your time performing menial Excel tasks and boost your spreadsheet productivity. Read More . It’s a very powerful piece of software. The key is knowing what functionality does what.

Do you have a tip for producing Excel dashboards? Do you need a hand with a particular problem? Join the conversation in the comments section below.

Related topics: Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Office Tips.

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  1. Chris McAndrew
    November 7, 2017 at 11:35 am

    Themes! On my Office 2016, I have only three choices, Colourful, Dark Gray (Grey), White.

    I have no Black option. Anyone care to comment? Thanks, Chris

  2. Todd
    November 4, 2017 at 7:34 am

    What a great reminder of just a few of the useful tools in Excel. I'm going to have to start redeploying them. Thanks.
    Love the easy to understand tutorial for those that are beginning with Excel.
    Although the color scheme.. ?