Scientific journals have explicit requirements for the submission of figures: Most commonly they require high-resolution TIFF files. Using the XL Toolbox, you can produce graphic files with Excel that meet the requirements of the majority of journals. The Toolbox produces these files directly from Excel; third-party illustrator software or virtual printer drivers are not needed.

You can even produce multipanel graphs by arranging charts and drawings on an Excel worksheet and then export them all together using the XL Toolbox. The layout will be preserved, and spreadsheet gridlines will not appear in your graphic file.

Tip

Use the batch export command to produce high-resolution files of all charts in your workbook.

Technical requirements of representative journals

Cell Nature Science The JCI The JBC
Dimensions Max. 8.5 x 11” 89 mm/183 mm width 2.3”/3.4”/4.6” wide ≤ 16 cm (w), 20 cm (h) 3.5”/5”/7.2” wide
Color space RGB or grayscale CMYK not indicated CMYK RGB
Line weights ≥ 0.5 pt 0.25 – 1 pt ≥ 0.5 pt not indicated not indicated
Resolution > 300 dpi > 300 dpi 400 – 1200 dpi 300 – 1200 dpi > 600 dpi
Preferred image format TIFF PDF, PS, MS Office (!), etc. (not TIFF) TIFF, PDF, PS, etc. TIFF TIFF, EPS
Format supported by XL Toolbox OK OK OK OK OK
Note: Click on the journal titles to go to the publisher’s web pages with more details. The above information is provided solely for the purpose of giving an overview of file format requirements by major scientific journals. It was accurate as of 1-Sep-09, but publishers may have changed their policies in the meantime. Also note that I am neither affiliated nor endorsed by any of the above journals’ publishers. Before you submit figures to a journal, make sure you comply with their requirements. Do not rely on this table.

XL Toolbox Export Features

  • File formats: TIFF, PNG, EMF
  • Color spaces: Black & white, grayscale, RGB, CMYK
  • Color management: Available for chart export (note though that Excel itself does not support display color management for charts; read more about color management & the XL Toolbox).
  • Resolution: Any (within reasonable limits)
  • Layout: When multiple graphs are exported, their layout is preserved. Thus, you can use Excel’s cell grid as a convenient layout table and compile multi-panel figures. Of course, spreadsheet content and gridlines will not appear in the final graphic file, just the figures (and optionally any graphic elements such as arrows, textboxes etc.).

Simple Tutorial: How to arrange figures on an Excel worksheet and export them

Excel spreadsheets can serve as a layout table: You can easily arrange your figures on a worksheet. The spreadsheet grid provides a convenient means to align your graphs – just keep the ALT key pressed when you move a graph with the mouse! Note: It is advisable to have one worksheet per multi-panel figure, so that you don’t have to select all panels individually when you want to export your figures; the Toolbox can conveniently export all charts from one worksheet in one go.

Here is a very simple example:

Layout demo

How were the panel letters (“A” and “B”) inserted into the charts? Select a chart and use Excel’s “Insert Textbox” function (this is the same function that you may be familiar with in PowerPoint or Word). Click inside the chart to place a new textbox. When you later move the chart, the textbox will stay with it.

Exporting the figure

The above two panels will look like this when they are exported as a grayscale TIFF file with 300 dpi (click on the image to download the original TIFF file):

The exported figures

Optional settings

You can change some optional settings in the Preferences dialog:

  • Enable/disable color management
  • Open the graphic file after export

Limitations

Pattern fills are currently not supported. Patterns are not scaled; therefore, if you export bar graphs with pattern fills at a high resolution, the pattern will still be there, but it will be extremely small. Support for patterns is planned for a future version.

Third-party components

In addition to the graphics engines built into Windows (GDI and GDI+), the following external libraries are used by Daniel’s XL Toolbox:


(Note: My nickname in the comments is bovender. — Daniel)

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