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Creating a chart from start to finish


Charts or graphs are widely used to represent numeric data sets in a visual form. Charts are indispensable if you want to present information to your audience in a clear and understandable manner.

Using online and desktop editors, you can:

  • make graphs of different types, such as column, line, pie, bar, area, scatter and stock,
  • change your chart appearance choosing from a variety of predefined styles,
  • define the chart layout, set axis options, display or hide text labels, gridlines etc.
  • adjust the appearance of individual chart elements.

All these allow you to display your data in the most optimal way. To easily create a chart in the Spreadsheet Editor, follow the instructions below.

Step 1. Select the necessary data and choose the chart type

To create a chart, it's important to organize your data on a worksheet in a proper way. All data series (i.e. data in separate columns/rows) should have headings that will be used as legend entries in your chart.

When you have entered all the necessary data, you can start creating your chart:

  1. Select the data series that should be used to plot the chart (you will be able to change the selected data range later). In most cases, the selection must include column/row headings.
  2. Switch to the Insert tab and click the Chart icon Chart icon at the top toolbar - a menu that provides available chart types opens.
  3. Decide what chart type suites your data best and click the necessary one in the menu.
    how to make a chart in excel Step 1 how to make a chart in excel Step 1
    You can start with any chart type and change it later using the Type menu at the right sidebar.

    Here is a brief overview of the available chart types:

    • column charts can be useful to compare data in several data series.
    • line charts are suitable to display trends or changes of values over time.
    • pie charts are commonly used to demonstrate whole-part relationships for one series of data.
    • bar charts are similar to column ones, but bar charts use horizontal bars instead of the vertical columns to visually display data.
    • area charts are equivalent to line charts, but areas below lines are filled with solid colors.
    • scatter charts suite for a comparison of numeric values in two series.
    • stock charts can be used to show stock prices (opening, high, low, closing) over a given period of time.

Once you select a chart type, the chart is added in the center of the current worksheet.

how to make a chart in excel Step 1 how to make a chart in excel Step 1

Step 2. Change the chart style and data used

To quickly change the chart appearance, use the Style menu at the right sidebar and select the necessary preset from the collection of predefined styles. Note that there are some other options allowing to change the look of the chart:

  • You can apply your custom fill to the chart background as well as to any chart element,  such as plot areadata serieschart titlelegend etc. Select the chart or its element on the worksheet, click the Shape settings icon Shape Settings icon at the right sidebar and choose the necessary Fill type (e.g. you can use a gradient fill or one of the available textures). When you select a vertical or horizontal axis or gridlines, the stroke settings are only available at the Shape Settings tab: colorwidth and type.
  • The color of all chart elements can be changed if you select a new Color Scheme using the Change color scheme icon at the Home tab of the top toolbar.

If you need to change the data range used to plot the chart (e.g. if you added new data series to the spreadsheet and now want to include them into your chart), click the Select Data button at the right sidebar - a new window opens. You can do the following:

  • In the entry field, type in the necessary cell range in the following format: Sheet1!A1:B2. Click OK to apply the changes.
how to make a chart in excel Step 2 how to make a chart in excel Step 2
  • Or use the mouse to select a new data range on the worksheet. When ready, click OK.
  • Instead of using the Select Data option, it's also possible to click the chart itself - the current selection will be highlighted on the worksheet. Drag handles located around the source data to modify the range.

To change the data arrangement in the chart, i.e. the way your data series are plotted along the horizontal axis (by columns or by rows), double-click the chart on the worksheet or click the Show advanced settings link at the right sidebar. The Chart - Advanced Settings window opens.

how to make a chart in excel Step 2 how to make a chart in excel Step 2

Select the Data series to be used on the horizontal axis: in rows or in columns and click OK. Your chart data is now rearranged and the series names that have been previously used in the legend are now displayed as categories along the horizontal axis.

how to make a chart in excel Step 2 how to make a chart in excel Step 2

Step 3. Add or modify text elements

To make your chart more informative and readily understandable, use text labels, such as the chart title, axis titles, legend entries, data labels.

The created chart already includes the default title located over the plot area. To edit the chart Title, select the default text with the mouse and type in your own one instead. You can change the title position using the Chart Title list at the Layout tab of the Chart - Advanced Settings window. If you do not want to display the chart title, select the None option from this list.

how to make a chart in excel Step 3 how to make a chart in excel Step 3

By default, your chart also includes the Legend located to the right of the plot area. You can change the legend position, selecting the necessary option from the corresponding list at the Layout tab of the Chart - Advanced Settings window. E.g. you can place the legend above or below the plot area or hide it using the None option.

how to make a chart in excel Step 3 how to make a chart in excel Step 3

It's also possible to add Data Labels, i.e. text labels that represent exact values of data points. Open the Layout tab of the Chart - Advanced Settings window.

  1. Set the data labels position relative to data points choosing the necessary option from the list.
  2. Select the data you wish to include into your labels checking the corresponding boxes: Series NameCategory NameValue.
how to make a chart in excel Step 3 how to make a chart in excel Step 3
  1. Enter a character (comma, semicolon etc.) you wish to use for separating several labels into the Data Labels Separator entry field.

Click OK to apply the settings.

how to make a chart in excel Step 3 how to make a chart in excel Step 3

Axis Titles are not displayed by default. If you wish to display the Horizontal Axis Title, select the No Overlay option from the drop-down list at the Layout tab of the Chart - Advanced Settings window. In this case, the title is displayed below the horizontal axis.

For the Vertical Axis Title, you can set its orientation selecting from the following available options:

  • Rotated to display the title from bottom to top to the left of the vertical axis,
  • Horizontal to display the title horizontally to the left of the vertical axis.
how to make a chart in excel Step 3 how to make a chart in excel Step 3

Once you add an axis title, select the default title text on the chart and type in your own text to denote, what values or categories are represented at this axis.

Note: Axis Title options are not available for pie charts.

how to make a chart in excel Step 3 how to make a chart in excel Step 3

You can change the font formatting within all the added text elements. Select the necessary text element by left-clicking it. Then use icons at the Home tab of the top toolbar to change the font type, style, size, or color.

Step 4. Change axis options and format other chart elements

To make the perception of the chart information easier, you can hide or display chart axes and gridlines, adjust tick mark properties etc.

For charts of any type, excepting pie charts, you can hide both horizontal and vertical axes with all their tick marks and labels if you do not want to display them. This can be done using the Hide option at the Layout tab. To display axes again, use the Show option.

Vertical and horizontal Gridlines go across the plot area to help easily estimate data values. You can set which type of gridlines you want to display: MajorMinor, or Major and Minor. To hide gridlines at all, use the None option. These settings are available at the Layout tab.

how to make a chart in excel Step 4 how to make a chart in excel Step 4

If the chart axes are displayed, you can additionally adjust some axis options. To access these settings switch to the Vertical/Horizontal Axis tab of the Chart - Advanced Settings window. For example, you can change the following parameters:

  • set the exact Minimum/Maximum value displayed at the vertical axis instead of the Auto value selected by default.
  • set the point where axes should intersect specifying a certain value or using the Minimum/Maximum value as an intersection point.
  • set the position of Major and Minor Tick Marks relative to the vertical/horizontal axis and specify an interval between these marks at the horizontal axis.
  • set the position of labels that display numeric values at the vertical axis and/or categories at the horizontal axis.

Step 5. Resize and move the chart

Now your chart is ready, but you might also need to adjust its size or move the chart to a more suitable position on the worksheet.

To change the chart size, you can drag Square icon handles situated on the chart edges. To maintain the original proportions of the chart while resizing, hold down the Shift key and drag one of the corner handles.

Alternatively, you can use the Size section at the right sidebar to set exact Width and Height values.

how to make a chart in excel Step 5 how to make a chart in excel Step 5

To change the chart position, hover the mouse cursor over the chart until it turns into the four-headed arrow Arrow and drag the chart to the necessary place on the worksheet.


That's all. You have successfully created and formatted your chart.

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