An Introduction to Charts in Excel

Charts are how you visualise data in Excel.

These visualisations are fantatstic for presenting data for others, as well as summarising it for yourself.

Delegates on our Excel courses always want to learn how to make great charts!

What Is An Excel Chart?

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.

Excel Charts provide a visual way of seeing trends in the data in your worksheet. Charts can also be used to more easily visualise outliers in a large dataset.

How Can I Create A Chart In Excel?

The beauty of the charting process is that it is delightfully easy and simple – starting from the insert tab.

  • Select the data that you wish to create a chart from
  • Click on the ‘Insert’ tab
  • If you know the type of chart you would like, click on the corresponding button within the Charts group within the Insert tab. 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

Shows where to click to find more chart choices

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!

Shows the created chart and highlights the data used

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.


Moving A Chart To Its Own Page

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.

  • Click on the chart
  • Click on the ‘Chart Design’ tab
  • Click on ‘Move Chart’ this opens a new box
  • Check the ‘New Sheet’ optionClick ok
  • This will move the chart into its own full sized sheet.

Shows how you can move a chart to its own page

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

Switching Rows / Columns In Data

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.

Highlighting the switch/row column button and how to get there

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!

Mastering your data control like this is key to using Excel for different fields. For more check out this article on Excel for SEO training.

Showing Data In A Chart

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 ‘Chart Design’ tab
  • Click on the button ‘Add Chart Element’ then ‘Data Table’ and pick whether or not you want legend keys.

Shows the add chart element button and effect on the chart

Different Types Of Excel Charts

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 chart.

It’s the best place to start when learning how to visualise data.

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!

Recommended Charts

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.

Are you producing data and charts in collaboration with a colleague? Then Excel for Web might be a good solution for you. Read our article.

Change Chart Type

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.

Shows another way to change the chart type

From here you can switch to any Chart type you want!



About Ben Richardson

Ben is a director of Acuity Training which he has been running for over 10 years.

He is a Natural Sciences graduate from the University of Cambridge and a qualified accountant with the ICAEW.

He previously worked as a venture capitalist and banker and so had extensive experience with Excel from building financial models before moving to learn SQL, Microsoft Power BI and other technologies more recently.