New York Times Tax Burden Visualisation in Powerpoint

The New York Times has been developing excellent data visualizations for years. A couple of weeks ago, I came across one of the latest editions and I was amazed by the simplicity and elegance of their graph on the U.S. tax burden evolution.

Take a look at the original article:

What makes this visualization so clever, is the fact that they have a ton of data displayed in a single image, but they only display the values that the users selects by hovering over the graph. In this way, you get a detailed picture of 30 years of data over 8 tax brackets without losing yourself. If you would have placed this amount of data into slide, you would need a dozen or so to get the same result.

So I immediately thought “but could this also be done on PowerPoint?”
And the answer is “Yes, it can”

In this article I will explain how this can be achieved. You can download a free copy of the presentation at the end of this article.

1. Gather data and create chart
As the amount of data is pretty significant, we will use Excel to store our values. In Excel, we will also create the chart since you have more charting options available.

We will not cover the entire creation process of the excel data and chart. Instead, you can dive into the data yourself when you download the files. Basically this is the setup in Excel:

For every year, we have created a separate workbook in excel. You could also create one, large excel file with tabs per year, but for now we have worked with multiple workbooks.

2. Create annual slides
For every year of data, we are going to setup a separate slide.
Provide a slide name by entering a Title name, so you can distinguish the separate years easily.

3. Copy the Excel chart and Paste in PowerPoint
Select the appropriate chart in excel and copy (CTRL+C) and use Paste Special > Paste Link to paste the chart in the correct slide.

Change the chart size and position in such a way that it fits your slide perfectly.
By using the Paste special option, every change in the original excel chart is reflected in PowerPoint. Even when the data changes or when you change the lay out of the chart (series), it is immediately updated.
Note: when you open up the PowerPoint file, you are asked if you want to update the links. Select "Update links" and wait for a couple of seconds for PowerPoint to update all charts.

4. Create mouse over hyperlinks by using Actions
There are several ways to add navigation to your slides. One way is to use triggers, a technique described in one of our earlier articles. Another way is to add Actions to shapes or pictures in your slide.

With Actions, you create hyperlinks to other locations in your presentation. You can choose between two options:
- Hyperlink with mouse click
- Hyperlink with mouse over

The last option is a fun feature since it will follow the hyperlink as soon as you hover with your mouse over the shape (instead of clicking the shape).
Normally, this would make you a bit nervous since the slightest mouse movement could trigger a hyperlink, but in this case it is exactly what we need to mimic the NYT chart behavior.

We know that per tax bracket, there is 30 years of data. And that we have 31 slides (one for every year) in our presentation.
By adding a “invisible” shape to the chart (one for every year), we can add an Action hyperlink ( type mouse over) to create the required navigation.

- Insert a rectangle shape from the shapes library menu.
- Change the width to 0.05
- Align the shape to the first series in the chart

Tip: use the visibility and selection pane to add names to the shapes so you can easily identify them:

- Select the shape and choose Insert > Actions > With mouse over and enter the slide number you would like to navigate to. So for rectangle shape 1980, you would create an Action hyperlink to slide 1980.
To this for every year in the graph. You end up with 31 very narrow rectangle shapes.
- Align them using the Align tool menu so they match the underlying charts series.

- Group the rectangle shapes
- Copy and Paste the grouped shapes for each tax bracket and align them with the chart series:

5. Copy and paste the grouped shapes to all slides

Before you Paste the grouped shapes to all slides, make sure that the fill level and line color are set to “no fill”. This makes them "invisible" when you present your slides

And now it is time to see the magic!
Hit F5 (presenter mode) and navigate through your chart and see the chart values change!

What actually happens under water is that your navigate very fast through your 13 slides, because every slide references to all other slides in the same way…simple huh?

You can download the presentation + all the related excel files here.
Note: when you download the zip file, make sure that the excel and PowerPoint files are all extracted and remain in the same folder.
Note II: when you open the PowerPoint file, select yes to update the chart values from the source files (excel).


Jeroen Breugelmans
Jeroen Breugelmans



Marc Jacobs
Marc Jacobs

December 30, 2012

Never imagined this could be done in Powerpoint. And I have been working with it for a couple of years now. Thanks for posting this inspirational article.
When is the next one coming out?

Rick Veldman
Rick Veldman

December 30, 2012

I found your site just recently but every article is truelly amazing! this is my favourite and please write more things like this.
Can you do an article on US 2012 elections?

Leave a comment

Comments have to be approved before showing up.