Think-Cell Review (2023): Is It Worth the Cost?

Adam Smith
23/02/2024

Why Consider a PowerPoint Charting Add-In?

In today’s data-driven world, the ability to convey complex information visually is more crucial than ever. While PowerPoint remains a leading tool for presentations, its basic charting capabilities may not suffice for professionals who regularly deal with intricate datasets or those aiming for the polished finish often seen in high-tier corporate or consultancy presentations. Enter PowerPoint charting add-ins.

A PowerPoint charting add-in is a software extension that enhances or introduces additional charting and graphing functionalities to Microsoft PowerPoint. There are several reasons why you might consider adding a PowerPoint charting add-in to your toolkit, including:

  1. Efficiency: Add-ins help you create professional looking charts faster.
  2. Expanded Chart Options: PowerPoint lacks native support for certain chart types like waterfall, Mekko, and Gantt charts.
  3. Enhanced Features: Add-ins offer chart decorations and features not found in PowerPoint, such as CAGR arrows and value lines.

Among charting add-ins, none are quite as pervasive as Think-Cell. It’s a name that likely sounds familiar if you’ve ventured into realms of professional services such as management consulting and investment banking. The goal of this article is to provide a comprehensive overview of Think-Cell, delve into its diverse features, and weigh its pros and cons to help you determine whether it suits your needs.

Think-Cell: An Overview

Think-Cell is a globally renowned PowerPoint add-on, designed to enhance chart creation and slide layout capabilities. Boasting a user base of over 950,000 from 23,000 companies, it’s recognized as the world’s leading PowerPoint charting tool, with 8 of the top 10 consulting firms among its users.

After installing Think-Cell, you’ll notice a fresh section appearing within the “Insert” category of your PowerPoint ribbon. This toolbar, which integrates smoothly into PowerPoint, mirrors the look and behavior of PowerPoint’s native tools. Notably, navigating its dropdowns and menus is smooth and lag-free.

Through this toolbar, you gain access to Think-Cell’s key features, which include:

  • Charting: A wide array of charts including column charts, bar charts, line charts, area charts, scatterplots, bubble charts, waterfall charts, Mekko charts, Gantt charts, and more.
  • Layouts: Special text boxes, process flows and tables that automatically re-arrange to fit their contents, as well as automated agendas and table of contents.
  • Excel integrations: The ability to automatically populating and updating a chart’s data from an external Excel file.
  • Extended PowerPoint functionality: A very limited number of useful functions that aren’t natively found in PowerPoint, such as the ability to save or send individual slides.

Charting Options

Think-Cell contains a wide range of different chart types, including column charts, bar charts, line charts, area charts, scatterplots, bubble charts, waterfall charts, Mekko charts, Gantt charts, and more.

To insert a chart, simply click on the elements menu, select the chart you’d like to use, and then drop it onto your slide canvas.

A pop-up containing an Excel datasheet will then appear. This is where you insert the data for your chart. It allows for the input of both raw numbers and dynamic Excel formula calculations.

Editing charts is also streamlined. For instance, resizing can be achieved by dragging the edges, and rotation is enabled by selecting the rotation handle atop the chart.

One standout aspect is Think-Cell’s emphasis on precision. Unlike many PowerPoint add-ons, Think-Cell allows for meticulous control over data presentation. You can change the order of chart categories or segments without tampering with the original data.

Chart Decorations

Consulting firms frequently employ chart decorations to enhance their presentations. Think-Cell boasts the most extensive range of chart decorations compared to any other PowerPoint charting plugin. Accessing these is straightforward: right-click on the chart, and a circular list of icons pops up, presenting all available decorations for your specific chart type.

Users regularly utilize features like CAGRs, difference arrows, and value lines. A significant perk of Think-Cell is its ability to auto-calculate key metrics. For instance, when adding a CAGR arrow to a chart, it instantly calculates the CAGR, factoring in the values and the periods in the chart. Modifying the CAGR arrow range prompts an automatic recalculation.

Layouts and Other Elements

Consultants often find themselves updating slides as fresh data emerges or when preferences shift. This task, while tedious in PowerPoint, is simplified with Think-Cell. The platform enables the construction of intricate layouts that self-adjust as elements are added or removed. This dynamic nature eliminates manual resizing, realigning, or font adjustments that often plague PowerPoint updates.

However, mastery of Think-Cell’s auto-layouts has a surprisingly steep learning curve. Their custom anchors and snapping tools, although can be helpful once understood, can be initially perplexing. There are some limitations to spacing, and while not always intuitive, Think-Cell’s layout feature remains useful for those willing to invest the time.

Excel Integration and Automation

There’s nothing more tedious than the constant copying and pasting of data between Excel and PowerPoint to keep charts up-to-date. Think-Cell’s direct integration with Excel streamlines this. With this integration, Think-Cell charts in PowerPoint can be connected to Excel data. Consequently, as Excel data shifts, Think-Cell charts are automatically refreshed.

A notable difference from other solutions is the resilience of this data link. Whether you rename files, paste charts elsewhere, or even email the files, the data link remains unbroken.

Compatibility

A common concern with add-ons is compatibility for recipients without the same software. Think-Cell has addressed this concern: when someone without the Think-Cell add-on accesses the presentation, all Think-Cell generated charts and elements revert to PowerPoint’s native formats. Importantly, they retain the distinctive features added through Think-Cell, such as specific chart decorations.

Pricing and Licensing

Think-Cell’s pricing structure is crafted with corporate clientele in mind, given its cost of over $300USD annually for a single license. Bulk license purchases come with modest discounts. This price point might be a sizable commitment for individuals or smaller teams. The value derived from such an investment hinges on the frequency and intricacy of your charting requirements.

For those with rudimentary charting needs, PowerPoint’s innate capabilities may suffice. However, Think-Cell, with its exclusive chart styles and features, can significantly augment workflow efficiency. This can be invaluable for regular users. On the other hand, if chart designs are peripheral to your presentations or if you seldom use them, the financial commitment to Think-Cell might not be justifiable. In such scenarios, PowerPoint’s embedded charting tools might be more appropriate.

Other Potential Limitations

While Think-Cell offers a plethora of features and seamless integrations, potential users should be aware of a few considerations:

  • Learning Curve: Features like auto-layouts might require a bit of time for new users to master.
  • Layout Restrictions: There can be limitations in customization, especially concerning precise spacing and alignments.
  • Cost: Not mentioned previously, but any discussion about a software tool should consider its price point and if it provides value for its cost.

Summary

Pros:

  • Intuitive Interface: Seamless integration with PowerPoint, offering a user-friendly experience.
  • Variety: A wide array of charts and decorations cater to diverse presentation needs.
  • Robust Integrations: Reliable Excel linkage reduces manual data transfer efforts. There’s also mention of a Tableau integration.
  • Compatibility: Charts can be viewed even without the add-on, converting to PowerPoint’s native formats.

Cons:

  • Learning Curve: Mastery of certain features may take time.
  • Customization Limitations: Auto-layouts may not always meet “pixel perfect” expectations.
  • Cost: With an annual fee of over $300USD per license, Think-Cell is prohibitively expensive for users who don’t work for companies willing to cover the cost.