Practice worksheet included with online video training.


In this video, we'll look at how to create a basic chart in Excel.

Here we have annual sales figures for a small company. I'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 without blank rows or columns, so, I'll remove this blank row.

To create a chart, start by selecting the data.

In most cases, you'll want to exclude totals, but go ahead and include labels, so that Excel can use these in the chart.

In Excel 2013 or later, click the Recommended charts button, then select then find and select the column chart, and click OK.

Excel will immediately create a new chart on the worksheet.

If you're using an older version of Excel, you can click the column icon directly on the ribbon, and choose a simple 2D column.

Once you have a chart, you can use the drag handles to resize as you like. If you want, you can hold down the Alt key to snap the chart to the cell gridlines below.

Notice that when you select a chart, Excel highlights the cells that contain the source data.

You'll see this highlighting only when the chart is selected.

You can use the drag handles to change the data range, and control the amount of data being plotted in the chart.

For example, I could limit this chart to display only the last 5 years of data. Or, I can drag to show just the first 5 years. And I can easily adjust to display all 8 years again in the chart.

Now, you can also adjust data with control called Chart Filters. To keep things simple, we'll look at this feature in a separate video.

Now that we have a chart to look at, 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.

In this chart, we see have a Title, the Plot Area, a horizontal axis, and a vertical axis. When I hover over a specific bar in the chart, Excel will name the data series, and display value.

Just like formulas, Excel charts are fully dynamic. 

If I change the source data, this change is immediately reflected in the chart.

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AuthorMicrosoft Most Valuable Professional Award

Dave Bruns

Hi - I'm Dave Bruns, and I run Exceljet with my wife, Lisa. Our goal is to help you work faster in Excel. We create short videos, and clear examples of formulas, functions, pivot tables, conditional formatting, and charts.