An Introduction to Charts in Excel

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, a chart in a worksheet can be worth a thousand numbers!

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 it’s more advanced functions and business intelligence suite. For more details on the different ways to visualise data using Excel see our course offering here.

Charts are used to summarise data, reflecting proportions, trends, and anomalies in your data far more effectively. Charts provide a visual way of seeing trends in the data in your worksheet. The charting feature in Excel is extremely flexible and powerful and allows you to create a wide range of charts from the worksheet data. But the beauty of the charting process is that it is delightfully easy and simple – once you know how.

  • Select the data that you wish to create the chart from
  • Click on the ‘Insert’ tab
  • If you know the type of chart you would like, click on the corresponding button. If you wish to see all the chart types available, click on the little arrow in the bottom right-hand corner of the charts section


I have chosen a simple column chart for this


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 it’s size by grabbing hold of the grey box at any of the points highlighted in yellow

If you decide that you don’t want your chart on the same sheet as your data you can move it onto it’s own sheet.

  • Click on the chart
  • Click on the design tab of the ‘Chart Tools’
  • Click on ‘Move Chart’ this opens a new box
  • Check the ‘New Sheet’ option
  • Click ok
  • This will move the chart into it’s own full sized sheet.

move chart to new sheet

Chart in new sheet


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

  • right click on the chart and pick ‘select data’, this opens up another box
  • choose to ‘Switch Row/Column’, click on this and it will immediately change the way the chart displays the information.
  • to change it back, just click on the same button again.

switch row-column

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

  • Click on the chart again and select the ‘Layout’ tab from ‘Chart tools’
  • Click on the button ‘Data Table’ and then ‘Show Data Table’

Excel data table

This is a VERY brief overview of what you can do with charts. To learn more, why not come along to our Excel Intermediate training?

Here is an example of the same chart with additional formatting:

Sample chart


Want to learn more about adding borders in Excel? Follow this article to find out more.

Want to learn more about Excel 2010 orientation? Follow this article to find out more.