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Pie Chart

Excel pie chart example

The Pie Chart is a primary chart type in Excel. Pie charts are meant to express a "part to whole" relationship, where all pieces together represent 100%. Pie charts work best to display data with a small number of categories (2-5). For example, survey questions in yes/no format, data split by gender (male/female), new and returning visitors to a website, etc.

Pie charts should be avoided when there are many categories, or when categories do not total 100%. The human eye has trouble comparing the relative size of slices in a pie chart, so pie charts should also be avoided when slices are similar, unless similarity is the point.

Pros

  • Simple, compact presentation
  • Can be read "at a glance" with limited categories
  • Excel can calculate % values automatically

Cons

  • Difficult to compare relative size of slices
  • Become cluttered and dense as categories are added
  • Limited to part-to-whole data
  • Poor at showing change over time

Tips

  • Limit categories
  • Avoid all 3d variants

See also: Dataviz expert Ann Emery's Pie Chart Guidelines.