Charts can help an audience quickly grasp complex numerical relationships. Chartsmith 1.2.3 lets you turn raw data into spiffy graphs, but a few interface quirks and frustrating documentation may slow your progress.
Getting data into Chartsmith is a snap. The Data Viewer has a rectangular grid for numbers, with space for labels along the top and left side. You can enter data manually, cut-&-paste it, or import it from tab-delimited text files or Excel files.
In programs that support OS X services, such as TextEdit, you can also select the data with your mouse and choose a graph style from the Chartsmith Services submenu, and Chartsmith will automatically transfer the figures into a new document.
The program’s repertoire of a dozen chart types is less extensive than that of its primary competitor, Red Rock Software’s DeltaGraph. However, the application makes it easy to change designs as you enter the data, and you can specify a different type of graph for each data series.
Chartsmith’s interface relies on drag-&-dropping. For example, you can drag a swatch from its colour palette onto any chart element. It also lets you drag charts into other applications. In addition to letting you export individual charts in several graphic formats, you can save documents as Apple Keynote presentations.
The chart-editing interface suffers from inconsistencies, however. For example, to set attributes for most elements, you first select the component with the mouse and then click an icon to reveal an Inspector. But to hide or reveal the legend or grid, you must select options in the Data Viewer; there are no such controls in the Inspectors.
Unlike other chart components, which display handles when clicked, backgrounds don’t give feedback to let you know when they’re selected. I also encountered screen-refresh problems while resizing text, and the program occasionally truncated text labels.
Part of the frustration I felt when dealing with the interface was caused by the program’s lack of a manual. Three tutorials do a good job of introducing the program’s features, but they’re no substitute for an indexed guide. Online help provides more detail, but finding the answer to a specific question seemed to take forever.
Despite a few rough edges, Chartsmith is a capable charting tool that’s easy to use once you learn its foibles. Try it out for yourself – there’s a demo on the Blacksmith Technologies Web site.