Last week, when Apple introduced its new line of M3 processors, I created a comparison table to introduce the M3s and compare them to the M2s and M1s. I created it with ZDNET colors in Excel. Although I hope that the readers’ article was helpful, I can’t be sure — because all the reader letters I received were how I built the table.
Also: Does Apple’s M3 chip make the M1 and M2 obsolete? When to upgrade – and why
You can see the end result above. For the rest of this article, I’ll walk you through the process of making it ZDNET-worthy.
We’ll start with a spreadsheet containing tabular data in Excel default format. I’m doing this on a Mac, but the steps are the same Excel for Windows. Don’t forget you can click the small zoom rectangle in the top right corner to view a larger version of any of these images.
To start, I wanted to establish my color palette. I wanted the chart to reflect ZDNET’s three main colors, electric green, black and blue, used when hovering over an active link. You can see that blue color by hovering over the ZDNET logo at the top left of any page.
I moved my mouse over the ZDNET logo to force it to highlight, then used the screen capture tool on the Mac (Command-shift-4) to capture a block of the page. Then I pasted that block into my spreadsheet.
Don’t worry about where this logo goes. We’ll get rid of it in a minute.
I selected a cell a few lines below the table, and then selected the drop-down arrow to the immediate right of the Paint Bucket tool. Then I selected more colors.
I used the eyedropper tool to hover over the green ZDNET and click. It dropped the ZDNET green color in the swatch box.
I clicked OK, and filled the first cell with green. I repeated the process to get the correct blue and black. You don’t have to create three cells with each of the three colors because Excel keeps track of the most recent color.
But I tend to create cells with the color palette I’m using because then the colors travel with the document and aren’t tied to the Excel I’m using at the time.
As a final coloring step, I removed the ZDNET logo graphic from the sheet.
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Main sheet format
Next, I picked my font. I love the Helvetica New Condensed Bold font variation, so that’s what I chose for the entire sheet.
The main part is Helvetica New Condensed Bold 9 and the left legend is Helvetica New Condensed Bold 10. The top legend is actually Helvetica New Bold 12 (not condensed).
As a quick formatting tweak, I’ve centered all the main body text and scaled the entire sheet to 220% so I’ll be able to easily work in my additional tweaks. Here’s where we are so far.
Next, it’s time to apply the main colors. I chose electric green as the background for the main body and for the header and sidebar text. Then I chose black as the header and sidebar background.
Meanwhile, you can see how it fits into ZDNET’s color scheme.
I could leave the table like this and publish it, but there are ways to make it more readable.
Preparing header text
I wanted to be able to harden the cells. Since there was more than enough space inside the body, it was obvious that the header needed to be compressed. This can be done quite nicely by angling the header text.
Angle the header text by first selecting all the top headings, then clicking the Orientation tool and choosing Angle Counterclockwise.
I then tighten each of the columns. You can see the results here:
It’s okay, but it needs a little something ‘something’. It needs the title background to be at an angle, too.
This next step is probably my favorite because Excel gives you an awful lot of push for clicks. Just head up to the border tool. Suddenly, you not only get a border, but it corners the entire title. Be sure to select all borders, as well as the border color (which I made ZDNET green).
Then I hit Center Text and Bottom Alignment so that the text fits neatly into the corner headers:
The table is getting nicer, but it’s still dense. To make it easier to parse how the different elements are related, I wanted to divide the spreadsheet into different areas.
This is actually pretty straightforward. What I did was add rows and columns and then collapse them.
Once I added the columns, I made sure to select them with the control key, then set them to a white background and dragged them to the left to make them narrower and the same width.
I did exactly the same process with the rows. Here are the results.
This is a good time to get rid of gridlines. This is done by selecting the Page Layout tab and unchecking View under Gridlines.
Graphically showing relative performance
We are coming down the final stretch. It remains to be seen how the processor cores perform relative to each processor family. It will span the base M processor as well as the Pro and Max models — but not the Ultra. To make it clear that ultras are not included, we’re going to shade those two columns.
Also: MacBook Pro (M3 Max) review: A desktop-class laptop for the AI-powered age
It probably would have been easier before the split, but you can’t have everything in life. Instead, I control-clicked all cells under Ultra that are not dividing lines. Then I selected more colors under the paint bucket, selected the ZDNET electric green color, and slid the dark slider a little to the right. It maintains the hue of the color but changes its overall brightness.
Now it’s time to do some Excel magic. I have selected three relative performance blocks under CPU performance core. I again used the Control key to selectively select my cells:
To make the cells work as one, I selected the merged cells under the Merge and Center button:
I left-align the cells to push the number to the left Then, under the Conditional Performance section, navigate to Data Bar and then Fill Solid. I chose blue.
Then I changed the text color to white and the number format percentage. Next, under the Conditional Formatting icon, I chose New Rule, set the Style to Data Bar, and then set the Positive Value color to a brighter blue, which is ZDNET’s highlight color.
The same process was followed for CPU efficiency cores and GPU cores.
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has been completed. Although it looks somewhat lazy, Excel provides some powerful formatting tools that can help you create great-looking tables.
If you’ve created any great charts or tables using Excel, let us know in the comments below. I’d love to see what you make. Rejoice!
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