Have you ever been disappointed by InDesign’s lack of charting features (and really, how hard is it to be disappointed by something that’s non-existent)? Over at lynda.com, Anne-Marie Concepción has a solution in this week’s free InDesign Secrets episode. (Note: InDesign Secrets is David Blatner and Anne-Marie’s bi-weekly series that gives you a free movie on some InDesign insight every week—think Deke’s Techniques but with InDesign and slightly more sanity.)
The Chartwell font (yes, it’s a font, I know!) from the inventive mastermind at TK type makes ingenious use of ligatures in order to turn simple text numbers into bars, lines, and pies.
In the movie, Anne-Marie shows you how to start by typing the mathematical equation that represents your chart numbers. You’ll turn off InDesign’s ligatures at first (seriously, part of the delight comes from having ligatures off, seeing normal text, then watching the magic happen when you turn them back on), then you simply apply variations on the Chartwell font and turn those numbers into corresponding charts when you turn ligatures back on. I’m pretty sure it’s magic. It’s definitely fun.
So, for example, let’s say I started with this percentage breakdown, typed into InDesign, set in Chartwell with ligatures turned off, and each of the different values styled in a different color:
Looks like normal friendly text, right? But, if I set the Chartwell option to the Pies font style (it’s like setting a regular font to Italic or Bold) and turn the Ligatures on, the result is an automatic transformation into a pie chart that’s set to those percentages:
If I change the font family to Bars, the result is a bar graph:
I’ll admit, my data visualization friends would be mildly critical of a single-line bar chart. But it’s a font, right? So all you need to do is add some carriage returns between the numbers, and:
And if you really want to get fancy (and old-school bar-charty), add an equals sign set to black and turn the whole text frame 90 degrees:
Did I mention there is no drawing going on here whatsoever? Just want to make sure you’re properly amazed.
Finally, I can change the font family to Lines to get what Anne-Marie accurately points out is really an Area Chart.
Anne-Marie has some other handy Chartwell tips for applying color quickly with the use of a nested character style and using InDesign’s Story Editor to quickly make adjustments to your charts without having to turn ligatures on and off. It only adds to the coolness.
Chartwell is a for-purchase font, available at TKType. Each type of chart is $20 and you can get the whole deal for $50. If you have to make a lot of charts, or you just love ingenuity, definitely check it out.
By the way, Anne-Marie and her partner in InDesign Secrecy (the aforementioned David Blatner) have a new free movie every other week. And on opposite weeks, there’s a free InDesign FX video by that whippersnapper Mike Rankin. So really, InDesigners can’t go wrong with stopping by lynda.com on Thursdays.
Great to see you dekeItarians. I’ll be back the next time something is so cool I must share.