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Tuesday 11 November 2014

Excel Tip: The Camera Tool - using parts of your spreadsheet in graphics or charts

This week, I just have a short post about a simple tool that is a bit of a hidden gem in Excel.

We know we can add graphics to an Excel spreadsheet by using the Insert ribbon to add images and shapes, as well as the many charts that we can create in Excel.

But what about when, instead of adding a bit of graphics to a spreadsheet, we want to add a bit of a spreadsheet to some graphics?

This might be having a table appear within the area of a chart, or in front of an image, for example.

We can do this easily using the Camera tool.

Before we can do anything, we need to make the camera tool accessible. Microsoft don't make it easy to find!

To do this we need to add it to a ribbon. We can do this as follows:

  • Select File, Options and Customize Ribbon
  • From the "Choose commands from:" drop-down, select "All commands"
  • Scroll down to find "Camera" (they're alphabetical)
  • Highlight any custom tab on the right hand side (the simplest is Home, Custom Edit)
  • Click "Add>>"
  • Click "OK"
You will now see this at the right hand end of the home ribbon.

Now we have the tool, it is really easy to use.

Say we have a small table in cells B3:D5 that we want to use within a chart, in front of an image, or within a set of shapes.

All we have to do is select cells B3:D5 and click the Camera Tool. The cursor turns into the same cross hairs you see when creating a shape, but this time you can draw the shape within your graphics (which don't have to be on the same sheet as the original table), and the result becomes an object (just like the shapes) that you can manipulate in the same way.

It's that simple!

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  1. It is a very useful tool as the values in the photo image update as the sheet values change
    I use it to play “what-if-scenarios” with Clients
    Paste a photo of the Results summary from a different sheet on the working sheet and change the working sheet parameters / values and the results to the Results summary can instantly be seen

    I also use it to paste remarks like "DRAFT" across the spreadsheet
    Type “DRAFT” (or any other note) into a remote cell, light colour the background, take a photo and paste it over a spreadsheet
    The position, size and inclination can be adjusted
    Should the image be in the way when reviewing the spread sheet it can easily be moved to allow sighting of all cells

    1. They're two great uses of the tool Fred. It's bizarre how Microsoft almost hides it from users!

  2. I am a regular reader of your “Not Just Numbers” blog post and I appreciate your efforts...thank you!

    Your recent post on the use of the Excel camera interested me as I too tend to use the camera in some of my work. Hence I have given you the following link to a short post that recently wrote regarding one unique (camera) application that I find useful and helpful.

    I hope that you find it interesting.