Creating a Custom Theme in Xcelsius

For the past year as I have transitioned from creating dashboards in Excel to utilizing Xcelsius, I have been forced to regress on some of my previous charting advances. Spurred on by the teachings of Edward Tufte and Stephen Few, and the implementation of their ideas by BonaVista Systems and Juice Analytics, I was determined to make great “clean” dashboards.

Until now I found that the Halo theme had minimal chart-junk, but didn’t allow for out-of-the box waterfall charts, for example due to the shadow effect. iTheme appeared to have the perfect charts (once you turn off the chart background), but the selectors, tabs and icons are incredibly unattractive and I hardly see the theme used in practice.
Ultimately my determination to make a better Gantt chart led me to pour over the XML and Cascading Style Sheets that comprise the theme to see what I could impact. The result was both a bit disappointing and exhilarating. Unfortunately I was unable to get the color scheme to override the color defaults (because they appear to be embedded in the theme’s SWF file) or make the chart backgrounds default to off. Yet I did find that all themes are broken out into two components, “charts” and “art”.

With a little finesse, I have been able to combine the art and charts of existing themes to create my own custom themes. My current push has been to combine Nova’s selectors with the iTheme charts. In fact, I was so excited; I began building a web site to highlight the results at At this point, I have been able to use the theme to create templates that allow for OotB capabilities for basic Waterfall, Gantt and Spie charts.

Considering that I’m not a developer, and I have very minimal CSS and XML experience, I’m overwhelmed by the possibilities that I was able to uncover. With the ability to overcome some of the visualization limitations of Xcelsius, it may be possible to expand the user base.

I’d certainly appreciate any feedback to improve what I have developed so far. Download the theme at:

Josh Tapley