Charts

Excel charts let you illustrate your workbook data graphically to see trends. Also use charts in Excel to visualize comparisons.

Introduction

Video: Charts

Launch "Charts" video!Watch the video (4:50).

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.

Optional: Download our practice workbook.

Understanding charts

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.

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.

labeled graphic

Legend

The legend identifies which data series each color on the chart represents.

In this example, the legend identifies the different salespeople in the chart.

Chart Title

The title should clearly describe what the chart is illustrating.

Vertical Axis

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.

Horizontal Axis

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.

Data Series

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.

To insert a chart:

  1. Select the cells you want to chart, including the column titles and row labels. These cells will be the source data for the chart. In our example, we'll select cells A1:F6.


    Screenshot of Excel 2013Selecting cells A1:F6
  2. From the Insert tab, click the desired Chart command. In our example, we'll select Column.
    Screenshot of Excel 2013Clicking the Column chart command
  3. Choose the desired chart type from the drop-down menu.


    Screenshot of Excel 2013Choosing a chart type
  4. The selected chart will be inserted in the worksheet.
    Screenshot of Excel 2013The inserted chart

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.

Screenshot of Excel 2013Clicking the Recommended Charts command

Chart layout and style

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.

Screenshot of Excel 2013Chart formatting shortcuts

Other chart options

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.

To switch row and column data:

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.

Screenshot of Excel 2013The data grouped by year, with columns for each genre
  1. Select the chart you want to modify.
  2. From the Design tab, select the Switch Row/Column command.
    Screenshot of Excel 2013Clicking the Switch Rows/Columns command
  3. The rows and columns will be switched. In our example, the data is now grouped by genre, with columns for each year.
    Screenshot of Excel 2013The switched row and column data

To change the chart type:

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.

  1. From the Design tab, click the Change Chart Type command.
    Screenshot of Excel 2013Clicking the Change Chart Type command
  2. The Change Chart Type dialog box will appear. Select a new chart type and layout, then click OK. In our example, we'll choose a Line chart.


    Screenshot of Excel 2013Choosing a new chart type
  3. The selected chart type will appear. In our example, the line chart makes it easier to see trends in the sales data over time.


    Screenshot of Excel 2013The new chart type

To move a 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.

  1. Select the chart you want to move.
  2. Click the Design tab, then select the Move Chart command.
    Screenshot of Excel 2013Clicking the Move Chart command
  3. The Move Chart dialog box will appear. Select the desired location for the chart. In our example, we'll choose to move it to a New sheet, which will create a new worksheet.
  4. Click OK.
    Screenshot of Excel 2013Moving the chart to a new worksheet
  5. The chart will appear in the selected location. In our example, the chart now appears on a new worksheet.
    Screenshot of Excel 2013The chart on its own worksheet

Challenge!

  1. Open an existing Excel workbook. If you want, you can use our practice workbook.
  2. Use worksheet data to create a chart. If you are using the example, use the cell range A1:F6 as the source data for the chart.
  3. Change the chart layout. If you are using the example, select Layout 8.
  4. Apply a chart style.
  5. Move the chart. If you are using the example, move the chart to a new worksheet named Book Sales Data: 2008-2012.