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Bonavista Chart Tamer Kicks ass.



Note: This product is no longer available. Andreas passed away sometime ago. May his soul rest in peace.

You can use Excel 2013 / 2016’s built in recommended charts feature along with default color scheme make this product almost irrelevant.


Readers of this blog repeatedly ask these questions when it comes to charting,

  • Which chart should I use?
  • What colors to use?
  • How to format the chart better so that it looks good when printed / presented?
  • How to do all this without wasting big part of my day?

Well, my dear reader, if this rings a bell with you, then you should probably consider Bonavista Chart Tamer excel add in. It is designed by the same folks who made the Bonavista Excel Microcharts product.

I was part of the private beta team which tested this great product few months back and have been using off and on ever since. So, when Andreas (the person behind Bonavista Systems, more here) mailed me 3 weeks back about the release of this tool, I couldn’t wait to write a review of this.

So what is Chart Tamer all about?

Chart tamer aims to solve the 2 pressing problems any excel user faces: (1) Which chart should I use? (2) How do I format it better?

You select some data, hit the chart tamer button in your excel interface, pick a chart based on what you want to show and bingo, you have your chart ready.

Who is behind this product?

Trust me when I say this not a run of the mill product. This tool is conceptualized and designed by Stephen Few (author of Information Dashboard Design), Bonavista Systems and Maureen Stone of Stone Soup Consulting who specializes in digital color. The combination sounded too good to be true. But yes, they got together and designed this wonderful little tool.

What is so great about chart tamer?

Chart selection made simple

bonavista chart tamer ribbon button

When you are ready to create a new chart using chart tamer, just hit the chart tamer icon from your excel menu. And you see this beautifully designed UI. There are 2 ways to get started.

(1) You can specify the type of relationship your chart should depict and Chart tamer recommends the charts you should use. For eg. if you want to show the distribution of values, select “distribution” and you will see that the recommended charting options are Column, Bar, Line, Stacked Column, Stacked Bar and Dotted Line.

(2) You can also select the type of chart directly. This is more suitable if you already know what type of chart you want to construct.
Chart Selection UI - Chart Tamer
Colors that work

We are good with numbers, charts and analysis. But when it comes to colors lot of don’t know the difference between magenta and margarita. And we shouldn’t really bother too.  That is where chart tamer can help you. It has a color picker tool that provides excellent contrast and comparison. See it below.
Chart Tamer Color Picker Tool
Better formatted charts by default

How many times you have created a chart in excel and then tweaked it to get the desired effect. Well, with chart tamer, hopefully you spend less time formatting the chart and more time selling your story. Chart tamer reduces chart junk (like axis, labels etc.) by default and strives to improve data to ink ratio. See an example chart below.
Chart Tamer Sample Chart

Box plot, dot strip plotCharts like box plot and dot&strip plot are bundled

Yes, that is true. When you install chart tamer, you can also create box plot and dot&strip plot with out any extra work.

See my review of chart tamer in You tube:

Youtube link in case you are not able to see this: Bonavista Chart Tamer Video review

What is not so great about it?

Chart tamer is designed for people who would love to stick to strong visualization principles and make good charts. That means, no to certain types of charts like donut charts, 3D charts etc. But the good news is, you can still create those charts using excel’s own charting options. What more, you can color the charts using chart tamer’s color picker dialog.

So, go ahead and give it a try

You can download a 30 day trial version of the software or buy a license of it from the chart tamer product page.

You can even buy a bundled version of chart tamer along with Bonavista microcharts. Go here.

I have used my affiliate code to recommend this product because I think it totally kicks ass.

What do you think about the chart tamer?

Have you tried it? Tell me what you think about it.


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12 Responses to “Bonavista Chart Tamer Kicks ass.”

  1. Jon Peltier says:

    I've tried out the Chart Tamer, and thought is was a nice little utility. Since I thought my readers would be interested in it, I reviewed it in BonaVista Releases Chart Tamer.

  2. Oliver Montero says:

    I've tried and also find that is a great utility, still I find that $40 bucks is kind of expensive. If it would've been between in the 20 bucks vicinity I would have buy it right away (Yes I know I'm a cheap bastard).

    Guess I'll continue copying my formats from a charts template file based on one I downloaded from this same site (Thanks PHD!!!!)

  3. [...] second article I read discusses a product in MS Excel called Chart Tamer.  This feature not only seems quite useful for creating charts, but could also be fun to use.  [...]

  4. Chandoo says:

    @Jon: Thanks for sharing the link.

    @Oliver: I agree that it is a good utility. But I guess the price is bound to be around that if 3 great entities like Few, Bonavista and Stonesoup are coming together to design it. It is almost like a professional software for making charts. I will let you know if there are any discounts or giveaways planned.

  5. Dale Warren says:

    I agree, Chart Tamer is a nice utility. (Especially for Excel 2003, which doesn't have themes.)

    BTW, you make it sound like data visualization advocates don't like 3D charts. TableCurve 3D is one of the best apps I've ever used. Of course, TableCurve 3D is intended for situations when data can't be easily collapsed to 2D, not for adding gratuitous special effects to a 2D chart, like Excel & PowerPoint are so helpful in letting us do.

  6. Russ says:

    I like ezanalyze (www.ezanalyze.com) much better.

  7. Bill says:

    RE: What is not so great about it?
    Chart tamer is designed for people who would love to stick to strong visualization principles and make good charts. That means, no to certain types of charts like donut charts, 3D charts etc.

    For the answer given, the question should read "what's so great about it!" Why would anyone want to make a bad chart?

  8. Ajay Gajree says:

    Hi Chandoo,

    Was going to look at this tool as a result of your direction in Excel School. The web pages linked above seem to have been taken off line, have Bonavista gone bust or something?

    Best regards

    Ajay Gajree 

  9. Alex says:

    Hi Chandoo,
    Is there any way you know where this software can now be attained?

  10. Prabhat Mittal says:

    Hi Chandoo,

    Your chart tamer product links are not working.

  11. Divisha Joe says:

    Just an update for folks -

    Due to the death of its founder, Andreas Lipphardt, BonaVista Systems is no longer in operation. The product is not longer available. (Info taken from John Peltier's page).

    Chandoo: It might just pay to add a line at the beginning of this page to explain the situation.

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