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This video comes from our video training for Excel Charts.

How to build a column chart

The video below shows how to make a basic column chart in Excel, and how you can use custom number formats with data labels to quickly streamline a chart. If you're not sure which chart type to choose, try a column or bar chart first. These simple charts are extremely easy to read.
Video Transcript 

In this video, we'll look at how to create a basic column chart in Excel. We'll also use look at custom number formats to show dates as month names, and currency in thousands.

Here we have data for monthly sales of a small business for the year 2016.

Let's build a column chart to plot this data.

To start off, put the cursor anywhere in the data, then visit the Insert tab on the ribbon.

Since I want a column chart, I'll use the bar icon to the right of Recommended Charts, which contains both column and bar options.

Now let's make this a better chart.

First, I'll add a descriptive title.

Next, I'll resize the chart to fit the worksheet with the alt key down, to help align the chart to the cells.

Now I'll fatten up the columns a bit. Column width is adjusted by changing gap width under Series options. About 60% usually works pretty well.

Next let's tackle the bottom axis. Double click the value axis to bring up the Format Task pane, then navigate to the number formatting area under Axis Options.

Notice that "Linked to source" is enabled, so we're getting the date format from the data.

Since these are valid dates, we can easily change the dates in the chart to show only month names with a custom format.

In the Format Code box, type the code "mmm" and click Add.

The chart now shows abbreviated month names, and "Linked to source" is automatically unchecked.

Let's use the same trick to show numbers in the vertical axis as thousands. Double-click the axis, navigate to the number format area, and use the format code:


Then click Add.

The chart is looking a lot better, but we can further simplify things by adding data labels. 

First I'll remove the vertical axis, the gridlines, and tick marks.

Then, I'll add data labels, and use the same custom number format to abbreviate.

To wrap things up, I want to highlight July in a different color, since the web server was down that month, and I want to point that out to management.

Click twice - once to select the series, and once again to select a single bar. The mini toolbar is a quick way to change fill color.

Dave Bruns
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