Quick, clean, and to the point

How to create a basic chart

In this lesson, we'll show you how to create a basic chart in Excel. The charting system in Excel is flexible and deep. You can create charts with very little effort, and you have the power to customize almost every aspect of a chart.

Let's take a look.

Here we have annual sales figures for a small company. We'll use this data to build a basic column chart.

The first step in creating a chart in Excel is to prepare the data. Charting works best if the data is structured in a simple grid that doesn't include blank rows or columns.

First, select the data you'd like to chart. If your data includes totals, don't include these in the selection. However, you should include data labels, if they exist, so that Excel can use them in the chart.

Next, click the Insert tab on the ribbon, then click Column, to see a list of column chart styles. All Excel charts have several variations. For Column charts, you'll see options for 2-D columns, 3-D columns, cylinders, cones, and pyramids.

For this example, we're going to stick with a basic 2-D column. When you select a chart option, Excel will immediately create a chart in that style.

With the chart selected, Excel highlights the cells used to create the chart on the worksheet. You'll see this highlighting only when the chart is selected. You can use the grab handles to control the amount of data being plotted.

For example, we could limit the chart to display only the last 5 years of data. Or, the first 5 years. And we can easily adjust to display all 8 years again.

Also notice that Excel will identify each item in the chart as you hover over it with your mouse. This is a good way to learn Excel's chart terminology.

We can see the Title, the Legend, the Plot Area, horizontal axis, and the vertical axis. When we hover over a column, we see that value that that column represents.

Excel charts are fully dynamic. Any change to the chart data is immediately reflected in the chart.

Dave Bruns

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