A few years ago, DeltaGraph 4.0 received one of Macworld's highest ratings (see Reviews, September 1996). Since then, statistics giant SPSS has acquired DeltaGraph and updated it to accommodate the Web and other changes in Mac computing, but it's still the best Mac program in its field.
DeltaGraph's objective is simple: it reads Microsoft Excel files (and most other common data formats) and turns them into better-looking charts than Excel can produce, with a richer selection of business presentation styles and scientific chart types. The program also handles large data sets more gracefully than does Excel (the included compact version of Design Science's Equation Editor enhances scientific display), and its business presentation charts are cleaner and easier to modify than Microsoft PowerPoint's. To change any element of a chart's appearance, you just double-click on the element and make a few selections.
Also new in DeltaGraph 4.5 is the option to export Web-ready JPEG graphics and import Excel 97 and 98 files. It lets you generate QuickTime 3 slide shows and data animations and adds a Pantone color-picker extension to guarantee color consistency in printed output. Convenient new multipurpose File dialog boxes echo the style of System 8.5's Apple Navigation Manager; new AppleScripts help you set up DeltaGraph as a networked "chart server" and automatically generate Web-based or printed reports. Version 4.5 also adds 11 new chart types: 3 styles of high- and low-close stock market charts, 2 kinds of intensity scatterplots, and 6 kinds of bar and column line-overlay charts.
These interface improvements were necessary to adapt DeltaGraph to intranet and Internet computing environments, and their implementation is glitch free. The new chart types aren't quite as impressive, however. Some welcome new types have odd defaults; for example, the Intensity Scatter and Paired Intensity charts open with a nearly useless bicolor intensity ramp, necessitating a bit of tweaking. Similarly, the line-width default in various bar charts with line overlays is a nearly invisible rule that calls for another adjustment.
But to be fair, the controls for adjusting chart details are nicely arranged and easy to use, and serious users preparing charts for publication nearly always make extensive departures from the defaults.
If it's your job to prepare charts for print or Web publication on a regular basis, it's time to step up to DeltaGraph 4.5 and leave the Excel-PowerPoint duo behind. You'll spend some time mastering DeltaGraph's details, but you'll be rewarded with a big payoff in better-looking charts.
RATING: PROS: Great variety of charts; nice scripts for automating report production. CONS: Some defaults need fine-tuning. COMPANY: SPSS (312/651-3000, http://www.spss.com ). LIST PRICE: $295.
May 1999 page: 62