Sparklines as TrueType Fonts
A key characteristic of the SparkMaker add-in for Microsoft Office is the typographical creation of sparklines by means of specifically crafted TrueType Fonts (TTF), the Bissantz SparkFonts.
The crux of SparkMaker is that each value of the input data is represented by one character which is formatted with an appropriate SparkFont. The SparkFonts embody bars, line segments, pies and other fractions of statistical diagrams. The concatenation of formatted characters results in a "textual image" of the sparkline. This way, you can work with the sparkline just like with normal text. For example, you can put it into table cells or insert it directly into your writings. Another quality is that the sparklines can continuously be scaled with the surrounding text, and printouts are razor-sharp.
For positive values 200 characters are available which yields a resolution of 0.5 %. Note that the difference is hard to tell on the screen, but very clear when printed. When the data set contains negative values, different characters from the font are used. They reflect the varying position of the x-axis. This way you can make bar sparklines like with all negative values, bar sparklines with high negative and relatively low positive values , bar sparklines whose (absolute) negative and positive values are similar and bar sparklines with small negative and big positive values .
Another popular sparkline type are "dichotomous" sparklines. Upward or downward whiskers indicate wins and losses, for example in soccer, tennis or baseballs matches.
And finally, it is possible to construct lines from characters that represent line segments. From the data set we want to visualize, we derive a grid of 50 groups. Each data point in the set is assigned to one of the 50 groups, and each group is graphically represented as a dot. It is then possible to draw all the connections between any two points and store them as a glyph in the SparkFont. These line segments can be combined and result in a line-style sparkline, with or without the markers.
The Bissantz SparkFonts were first published in January 2005. The current version 4.0 is a package of three TrueType Fonts (two Unicode fonts and one Windows Symbol font) that contain more than 4,500 characters.