capsule review

DeltaGraph 5.0

At a Glance
  • Red Rock Software DeltaGraph 5.0

    Macworld Rating

Over the years, we've repeatedly praised DeltaGraph for its ability to transform rows of mind-numbing figures into compelling charts (   ; May 1999 ). The OS X–only DeltaGraph 5.0.2 is part of Red Rock Software's first release cycle since the company acquired the rights to DeltaGraph from SPSS last year. And aside from a few complaints about its advanced graphics features, we deem DeltaGraph 5.0 a strong effort.

DeltaGraph 5.0 retains a familiar spreadsheetlike interface for entering numeric data, with the top row and leftmost column reserved for labels. You can also import data files, including Excel and delimited-text formats.

The program's extensive repertoire comprises more than 80 types of technical, business, and statistical charts that range from simple bar graphs to 3-D surface plots. DeltaGraph also sports advanced plotting features such as programmable error bars and polynomial curve fitting for scientific work. If you're not sure which chart to use, a handy Chart Advisor feature helps you choose one that suits your data. You specify your intended audience and set a few other options, such as the level of display detail, and the program responds with a tailor-made list of recommendations.

You can customize the appearance of any chart component, text, or graphic -- down to the length of the tick marks and the angle of the axis labels. However, we're disappointed that the OS X version of DeltaGraph doesn't support soft drop shadows or transparency, features we've come to expect in OS X graphics applications. (Red Rock plans to add these capabilities by the end of the year.)

Another feature leverages DeltaGraph's ability to store multiple pages of charts in a single document; it lets you display your graphs sequentially in slide-show format. Still, we suspect that most users will opt to transfer DeltaGraph charts to dedicated presentation applications. DeltaGraph supports several export formats, but PDF isn't one of them. Apple's Keynote achieved the best results by converting our charts into PDF files, but we had to use the Save As PDF feature in Keynote's Print dialog box to do so.

DeltaGraph also reaches beyond traditional numerical charting by letting you work with text-based hierarchical data. You enter text into an outliner view that mimics a standard yellow notepad, complete with ruled lines and a red margin. Double-click on the symbol next to the top-level entry, and DeltaGraph generates a standard organizational chart or a bulleted text list. The results aren't as stunning as those you can get from dedicated diagramming programs such as The Omni Group's OmniGraffle (   ; September 2003), but they're adequate for many tasks. You can use DeltaGraph to handle an entire presentation -- charts and text -- with one application.

Macworld's Buying Advice

The charting functions in Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint may be sufficient for simple jobs, but DeltaGraph 5.0.2 offers many more specialized chart formats than either program. If you can live with DeltaGraph's minor annoyances and limitations, most of which Red Rock says it will correct later this year, you'll reap the reward of an almost unlimited number of ways to get your message across.

At a Glance
  • Macworld Rating

    Pros

    • Extensive formatting options
    • Wide selection of chart types

    Cons

    • Limited support for advanced graphics features in OS X
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