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This guide provides an introduction to charts, navigating the Excel charts group and menus, and examples of different chart tools such as recommended charts.
Charts are Excel’s most basic way to visualise data. They offer a number of ways to represent your data graphically to make it easily understood. Excel also offers other ways to uncover data relationships in its more advanced functions and business intelligence suite. For more details on the different ways to visualise data see our Excel Course Offerings.
Excel Charts provide a visual way of seeing trends in the data in your worksheet.
The beauty of the charting process is that it is delightfully easy and simple – starting from the insert tab.
I have chosen a simple column chart for this, your option may be different depending on data but the “recommended charts” feature is very helpful (more on this here). As you can see there are many different options in the Charts group and even more in the menu we opened!
This embeds the chart into your current worksheet. When you click onto the chart you will see thick grey box around it and the data used for the chart will have different colour boxes around it.
When you are clicked onto the chart you are able to change its size by grabbing hold of the grey box at any of the circle points on the corners and in the centre of each side.
Charts can take up a lot of space, you can master control of your page layout using this guide.
If you decide that you don’t want your chart on the same sheet as your data you can move it onto its own sheet.
If you need to rename this charts page you can use the methods described in this post.
For this next section I have moved the chart back to an embedded chart on the same sheet as the data as this makes it easier to see what I am doing
You may realise that the data would be better displayed the other way round. To change it
The Switch Row/Column tool is often the solution when the data you have made into a chart isn’t being visualised how you may expect!
If you are going to use the chart in something else, like a PowerPoint presentation, you may want to show the data as well. To do this
Excel charts come in many different forms and layouts. The use of them is up to your discretion but here are a few example of how you could use the most common Excel charts. Remember the Charts group contains several options but the menu has even more!
Bar Chart – These Excel charts tend to be most useful when comparing different categories of data. As used in the previous example its effective when comparing salaries for different cities. You can quickly look at the chart and see the highest and lowest salaries even just at a glance. This will often be one of the recommended charts and is one of the most common types of charts.
Pie Chart – A Pie Chart, on the other hand, is great for expressing the relationship an individual piece of data has with the whole data set. For example, if you wanted to show how much profit your department contributed compared to a whole companies profit – a Pie Chart would be excellent.
Line Chart – Line Charts are excellent for showing growth over time. While a Bar Chart is great for showing the highest profit at one point, Line Charts are more appropriate for showing how that profit may change over a series of years. You can identify the highs and lows of your companies lifespan quickly and their relationship to other points on the line chart!
All three of these types of charts can be found in the Charts group as they are the most commonly used!
Each Chart Type has its own uses – experiment with what’s best for your needs, and use the Recommended Charts feature too!
Additionally – the Charts group contains a button for “recommended charts”, which will automatically select a chart type for you! Simply go to the Insert Tab and go over to the Charts group as before.
Recommended charts are best used when you don’t have any pre-existing plan for how the data should look. Excel collates countless data to figure out how to generate these recommended charts, so seeing what it has to offer couldn’t hurt.
To switch between different types of charts, click on the chart you have already created and navigate to the “Change Chart Type” button shown here within the Chart Design tab.
From here you can switch to any Chart type you want!