SparkMaker 4

FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions

Installation issues

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Does SparkMaker work with MacOS?

No, SparkMaker is not working with MacOS although the SparkFonts can usually be installed and used on a Macintosh system. It is also possible to copy text strings which represent sparklines from a PC and format them with the appropriate fonts or to copy image representations (EMF, GIF, ...) to a Macintosh system. Please contact us under sparklinetools@bissantz.de for any feedback you want to relate to us concerning SparkMaker with MacOS.

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Where can I download the .NET 2.0 framework?

SparkMaker requires Microsoft .NET framework version 2.0 to work correctly. You can download the current version from Microsoft.

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Can I use the "SparkMaker.msi" file to install SparkMaker?

It is not recommended to use the "SparkMaker.msi" file for installation. To ensure proper installation of the SparkMaker icon in the toolbars of Microsoft Office, please run setup.exe. This will apply a required patch from Microsoft (KB908002) for the .NET framework.

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Should I update my system before I install SparkMaker?

Yes, since in some cases outdated system files prevent correct execution of SparkMaker, an update of your system is advised. Use Windows Update (in the Extras menu of Microsoft Internet Explorer) to analyze your system and update any missing features. This is a beneficial task for your whole PC system and not only for the benefit of SparkMaker.

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When I try to manually register the sparkline functions in Excel, an error message appears.

In case you manually activate or deactivate the Excel functions, you may encounter the following error message: "Cannot find add.in 'mscoree.dll'. Delete from list?". This is not an error in SparkMaker - it is due to a configuration problem in the registry of your computer system. However, if the .NET framework is installed correctly and your system is updated appropriately, this configuration issue has no impact on the way SparkMaker is functioning. Please ignore the error and click on "No", then proceed as planned (e. g. select "Automation...").

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SparkMaker does not install as anticipated and does not work correctly, what should I do?

Before you proceed to the issues below, please make sure that you have the .NET 2.0 framework installed and that you have an Office version 2000 or higher (ideally XP or 2003).

Use the following checklist in the indicated sequence to fix any installation issues with SparkMaker.

  1. Check whether your system is updated with all relevant patches (bug fixes, security patches) - In some cases outdated system files prevent correct execution of SparkMaker. Therefore, use Windows Update (in the Extras menu of Microsoft Internet Explorer) to analyze your system and update any missing features. This is a beneficial task for your whole PC system and not only for the benefit of SparkMaker. After completing the update process please deinstall the current SparkMaker installation via the "Start" button (go to the task bar menu "Control Panel", select "Add/remove programs" then "SparkMaker" and deinstall it). Restart your computer and install SparkMaker using "setup.exe" contained in the downloaded .zip file. After installation of SparkMaker start Excel and try to use SparkMaker. If you still encounter problems, please check out the next section of the FAQ list below.
  2. You do not see the SparkMaker icon in either Excel, Word or PowerPoint: You must install SparkMaker with administrative privileges for the machine you are installing on. Otherwise the setup routine won't be able to add necessary registry settings for SparkMaker to function properly. If you do not see any SparkMaker icon, another source of the problem might be that you have installed SparkMaker with the "SparkMaker.msi" file. However, you need to use "setup.exe" which also installs a required update of the .NET 2.0 framework which currently seems to be missing on your computer. To correct this, first, deinstall your current SparkMaker installation via the "Start" button (go to the task bar menu "Control Panel", select "Add/remove programs" then "SparkMaker" and deinstall it). Second, assure that you have administrative privileges on your machine. Third, use the "setup.exe" to install SparkMaker correctly. After successful installation of SparkMaker start Excel and try to use SparkMaker. If you still encounter problems, please check out the next section of the FAQ list below.
  3. The SparkMaker icon appears in Word and PowerPoint but not in Excel: In this case you probably have some other program installed on your computer that forces Excel to use a previous .NET framework version (usually .NET 1.1). A typical example is Crystal Ball which runs on .NET 1.1 and which overrules your .NET 2.0 installation when you start Excel. Please download this ZIP file, and extract the excel.exe.config file to the folder on your computer in which the EXCEL.EXE file is located. Be sure to identify the correct directory and none where only a link to EXCEL.EXE is located. This configuration file ensures that Excel will load .NET 2.0. If the problem persists, you can also try to deactivate or deinstall the other program which uses .NET 1.1 for a test.
  4. The SparkMaker icon appears in Excel but sparkline functions result in a #NAME error: For some unknown reason your system prevents SparkMaker to automatically register the sparkline function add-in with Excel. Thus, you have to do a manual registration. This is described in the online help of SparkMaker ("How to manually setup the sparkline functions in Excel") which you access via the SparkMaker dialog (click the icon). For your convenience, the registration process is explained here, too:
    • In the "Tools" menu of Excel XP or Excel 2003, select "Add-Ins ...".
    • In the "Add-Ins ..." dialog, click on "Automation".
    • In the "Automation Servers" dialog, select "SparkMaker.Connect" from the list and confirm with "OK".
    • Now, the add-in "SparkMaker.Connect" appears in your list of add-ins. In case it is not yet activated, tick its checkbox, as shown in the screenshot, and close the dialog with "OK".
    • That's it - you can now use SparkMaker's Excel functions for dynamic sparklines.
    • Note: In case you manually activate or deactivate the Excel functions, you may encounter the following error message: "Cannot find add.in 'mscoree.dll'. Delete from list?". This is not an error in SparkMaker - it is due to a configuration problem in the registry of your computer system. However, if the .NET framework is installed correctly and your system is updated appropriately, this configuration issue has no impact on the way SparkMaker is functioning. Please ignore the error and click on "No", then proceed as planned (e.g. select "Automation...").
  5. None of the activities in the previous list has helped and SparkMaker still does not work as planned - please email us at sparklinetools@bissantz.de to resolve your problem as soon as possible. Within your email provide the following information:
    • Windows version and Windows language
    • Office/Excel version and Office/Excel language
    • Any ".trace" files you might find in SparkMaker's installation directory (C:\Program Files\Bissantz Software\SparkMaker)
    • Screenshots of any error messages you might receive
    • A concise description of the problem and what you have done so far to solve it
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I found that files named lsprst7.dll, tmpprst.dll and lsprst7.tgz are created in various places on my hard drive. What's the matter with them?

These files are part of the persistence layer of the licensing component used by SparkMaker. Usually these files are created once in the
%WINDIR%\system32 folder, if the user has local administrative privileges. If the user does not have local administrative privileges, these files might be created in the directory containing the Office document you have opened. In order to change this behaviour make sure SparkMaker is executed once from a user having administrative privileges. This user should have write access to the %WINDIR%\system32 folder.

Licensing issues

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The license I have bought is not accepted by SparkMaker.

To insert the license key you have obtained, please copy the complete string from your email (with Ctrl+C) to your clipboard, open SparkMaker via the icon, select the "Settings" menu and there "Licensing". Paste (Ctrl+V) the license key into the field "Enter license for local computer" and click on the text "Save license.." to the right of the field. This saves the license. Only then, close the dialog with the OK button.

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SparkMaker displays an error message in the "Status" field of the licensing dialog.

It seems that you might have some other product on your PC that uses the same licensing component (Sentinel LM) as SparkMaker. Please switch to the DOS prompt via the "Start" button and then the "Execute" menu - enter "cmd" which starts the DOS prompt. In the new window, enter "set" and confirm with return. Search within the resulting list for an entry "LSRVRC". The path set for this variable is important: open the lsrvrc file within this directory (use a text editor for this) and copy your license key into this file. Then save the lsrvrc file and close the editor. SparkMaker will now find its license key within this file when you click the SparkMaker icon in Excel (or Word/PowerPoint).

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Windows Vista or Windows 7: SparkMaker doesn't seem to find a license and starts in the Free edition.

Microsoft has introduced new concepts for User Account Control (UAC) and file virtualization under Windows Vista or Windows 7, which limit the access rights to program installation folders. According to these settings SparkMaker might not be able to read and write the license file properly. To work around this behavior we suggest one of the following.

a) Delete and replace license file
Copy the license you have purchased into a text file, which you name "lservrc". Make sure the file has no file extension. Delete the existing file "lservrc" in the SparkMaker installation folder and replace it with the new file you have created. You need to follow this delete and replace procedure, since the file virtualization otherwise will save the new license to the location "%UserProfile%\AppData\Local\Virtual Store\Program Files\Bissantz Software\SparkMaker\lservrc".

b) Redirect to different location
Copy the license key to file called "lservrc" and save it, say, as "c:\lservrc". Then set up an environment variable "LSERVRC" with the value "c:\lservrc" (= path and name of your license key file). The "lservrc" file can be stored in any other location as long as the environment variable points to it. SparkMaker will look for the environment variable and read the license file appropriately.

Usage issues

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Can the reports I have created with SparkMaker be viewed by others not using SparkMaker?

In general: Yes. But there are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. If you use SparkMaker to create sparklines as an image in Word, Excel or PowerPoint: No problem, everybody will be able to open that report without any effort on their part.
  2. If you use SparkMaker to create sparklines as text (SparkFonts): Recipients will be able to open the report if:
    1. They have the SparkFonts installed. The SparkFonts are a set of TrueType Fonts that can be downloaded from our website and used without extra cost.
    2. The SparkFonts are embedded in the document file. This is possible in Word and PowerPoint only, the respective option is under Tools, Options, Save: Embed TrueType fonts. Excel does not support embedded fonts; therefore, recipients of Excel reports are required to install the fonts (but they are free and easy to install).
    3. Of course, if you print the report to a PDF file with embedded fonts, everybody should be able to view it properly.
  3. If you use SparkMaker to create sparklines as a formula in Excel: First of all, recipients are required to install the font (see above). Additionaly, we have to consider the formulae - if SparkMaker is not installed, nothing is there to evaluate them. The Excel workbook can be opened, but all cells containing a SparkMaker formula will show an error message. We know of two workarounds:
    1. Deactivate recalculation of Excel functions - under Tools, Options, Calculation, select Manual. This will preserve the sparklines as they were last shown, so recipients can view the report at least until the next recalculation.
    2. With Paste Special in the Edit menu, you can paste the current output of SparkMaker's formulae as constant text that no longer depends on the SparkMaker installation. Hence, copy all the areas that contain sparkline formulae and Paste Special them into, for instance, another sheet in the same Excel workbook.
    If you want to share a report as an Excel file with sparklines as text or formula, then the fonts are inevitable (but they are free and easy to install).
  4. If recalculations in Excel are required, recipients do need SparkMaker and a license, unless you only use the =sparkline() function which is available in the Free edition of SparkMaker. In that case the recipient does require an installation of SparkMaker, but not a valid license.
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Defining colors for values in multi-color sparkline functions has no visible effect.

It is highly likely that minimum and/or maximum values of your sparkline are at the same time the first and/or last values. If the colors for min/max are e. g. set to black and first/last to red, the respective bars or dots will be displayed in black, since min/max settings overrule first/last settings. A similar effect is visible with positive/negative values - they are superseded by all first/last and min/max settings. Thus, very short sparklines with few values might appear different than anticipated. Just change the colors for min/max or first/last accordingly to get the visual effect you require for your sparkline.

For any questions concerning SparkMaker, please contact sparklinetools@bissantz.de.

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