It can often be difficult to interpret Excel workbooks that contain a lot of data. Charts allow you to illustrate your workbook data graphically, which makes it easy to visualize comparisons and trends.
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Excel has several different types of charts, allowing you to choose the one that best fits your data. In order to use charts effectively, you'll need to understand how different charts are used.
Click the arrows in the slideshow below to learn more about the types of charts in Excel.
Excel has a variety of chart types, each with its own advantages. Click the arrows to see some of the different types of charts available in Excel.
Column charts use vertical bars to represent data. They can work with many different types of data, but they're most frequently used for comparing information.
Line charts are ideal for showing trends. The data points are connected with lines, making it easy to see whether values are increasing or decreasing over time.
Pie charts make it easy to compare proportions. Each value is shown as a slice of the pie, so it's easy to see which values make up the percentage of a whole.
Bar charts work just like column charts, but they use horizontal bars instead of vertical bars.
Area charts are similar to line charts, except the areas under the lines are filled in.
Surface charts allow you to display data across a 3D landscape. They work best with large data sets, allowing you to see a variety of information at the same time.
In addition to chart types, you'll need to understand how to read a chart. Charts contain several different elements, or parts, that can help you interpret the data.
Click the buttons in the interactive below to learn about the different parts of a chart.
The legend identifies which data series each color on the chart represents.
In this example, the legend identifies the different salespeople in the chart.
The title should clearly describe what the chart is illustrating.
The vertical axis (also known as the y axis) is the vertical part of the chart.
Here, the vertical axis measures the value of the columns, so it is also called the value axis. In this example, the measured value is each salesperson's net sales.
The horizontal axis (also known as the x axis) is the horizontal part of the chart.
Here, the horizontal axis identifies the categories in the chart. In this example, each sales quarter is placed in its own group.
The data series consists of the related data points in a chart.
In this example, the blue columns represent net sales by Robert Johnson. We know his data is blue because of the legend on the right.
Reading the data series, we can see that Robert was the top salesperson in quarters 1 and 3, while he was the second highest in quarters 2 and 4.
If you're not sure which type of chart to use, the Recommended Charts command will suggest several different charts based on the source data.
Clicking the Recommended Charts command
After inserting a chart, there are several things you may want to change about the way your data is displayed. It's easy to edit a chart's layout and style from the Design tab.
You can also use the chart formatting shortcut buttons to quickly add chart elements, change the chart style, and filter the chart data.
There are many other ways to customize and organize your charts. For example, Excel allows you to rearrange a chart's data, change the chart type, and even move the chart to a different location in the workbook.
Sometimes you may want to change the way charts group your data. For example, in the chart below, the Book Sales data are grouped by year, with columns for each genre. However, we could switch the rows and columns so the chart will group the data by genre, with columns for each year. In both cases, the chart contains the same data—it's just organized differently.
If you find that your data isn't well suited to a certain chart, it's easy to switch to a new chart type. In our example, we'll change our chart from a Column chart to a Line chart.
Whenever you insert a new chart, it will appear as an object on the same worksheet that contains its source data. Alternatively, you can move the chart to a new worksheet to help keep your data organized.