16.1. Charting 101
Excel provides a dizzying number of different chart types, but they all share a few points in common. In this section, you'll learn about basic Excel charting concepts that apply to almost all types of charts; you'll also create a few basic charts . At the end of this chapter, you'll take a chart-by-chart tour of each and every one of Excel's many chart types.
To create a chart, Excel needs to translate your numbers into a graphical representation. The process of drawing numbers on a graph is called plotting . Before you plot your information on a chart, you should make sure your data is laid out properly. Here are some tips:
Structure your data in a simple grid of rows and columns .
Don't include blank cells between rows or columns.
Include titles, if you'd like them to appear in your chart. You can use category titles for each column of data (placed in the first row, atop each column), and an overall chart title (placed just above the category-title row).
If you follow these guidelines, you can expect to create the sort of chart shown in Figure 16-1.
To create the chart shown in Figure 16-1, Excel performs a few straightforward steps (you'll learn the specifics of how to actually create this chart in the next section). First, it extracts the text for the chart title from cell A1. Next , it examines the range of data (from $14,000 to $64,000) and uses it to set the value, or Y-axis scale. You'll notice that the scale starts at $0, and stretches up to $80,000 in order to give your data a little room to breathe. (You could configure these numbers manually, but Excel automatically makes common-sense guesses like these by looking at the data you're asking it to chart.) After setting the vertical scale, Excel adds the labels along the bottom axis (also known as the X-axis or category axis), and draws the columns of appropriate height.
The chart in Figure 16-1 is an embedded chart. Embedded charts appear in a worksheet, in a floating box alongside your data. You can move the chart by dragging the box around your worksheet, although depending on where you put it, you may obscure some of your data.
Your other option is to create a standalone chart, which looks the same but occupies an entire worksheet. That means that your chart data and your chart are placed on separate worksheets.
Usually, you'll use an embedded chart if you want to create printouts that combine both your worksheet data and one or more charts. On the other hand, if you want to print the charts separately, it's more convenient to use standalone charts. That way, you can print an entire workbook at once and have the charts and the data on separate pages.
So how do you create a chart like the one shown in Figure 16-1? Easyuse Excel's Chart Wizard. The Chart Wizard helps you create any type of Excel chart quickly by guiding you through several steps. In each step, you specify different options that Excel needs in order to create your chart.
The following steps will get you started with the Chart Wizard. However, you'll notice that these steps don't dig into every nook and cranny of chart configuration. Instead, you'll revisit these more advanced options throughout this chapter and the next.
Select the range of cells that includes the data you want to chart, including the column and row headings and any chart title.
For speedier chart building, all you have to do is position your cursor somewhere inside the table of data you want to chart. Excel then automatically selects the range of cells that it thinks make up the table. Of course, it never hurts to remove the possibility for error by explicitly selecting what you want to use before you get started. If you were using the data shown in Figure 16-1, for example, you'd select cells A1 to B7.
Select Insert Chart, or click the Chart Wizard button on the Standard toolbar, if it's visible. (The Chart Wizard button looks like a miniature column chart.)
The Chart Wizard appears, with a list of different chart types (as shown in Figure 16-2). This step is the first of four steps in the Chart Wizard, but you can click Finish at any time to skip all the remaining steps and just build the chart based on the choices you've made so far; Excel will make the rest of the decisions for you.
From the "Chart type" list on the left, choose a type of chart, and then, on the right, click the picture of the subtype you want.
The different chart types are explained in more detail later in this chapter. For now, it's best to stick to some of the more easily understood choices, like Bar, Column, or Pie. Remember, the chart choices are just the starting point, as you'll still be able to configure a wide range of details that control things like the titles, colors, and overall organization of your chart.
Click Next to move to step 2 of the wizard, where you specify the data you want to chart.
Excel displays a preview of your chart choice, and highlights the cells that it's using for the chart with a dotted marquee border (affectionately known as " marching ants "). You can click the worksheet and expand, shrink, or move the selection if necessary.
You can also use the options in this step to change how Excel interprets the data you want to chart. This step isn't necessary if you've arranged your data in a simple table, following the guidelines suggested earlier, but it might be important if your worksheet uses a slightly unusual layout. You'll dig further into this issue of data selection on Section 16.3.2.
Click Next to move to step 3 of the wizard, where you can configure every other chart option.
The options that you see in this step depend on the type of chart you've chosen . For example, if you're creating a pie chart, you'll see only options for configuring the text in the chart labels, title, and legend. If you're creating a column chart, on the other hand, you'll see these options along with additional tabs for setting the scale and configuring how gridlines are drawn. Even without your input, Excel usually makes common-sense choices, so you can often build a chart without needing to tweak any of these options.
Click Next to move to step 4 of the wizard, where you choose a location for the new chart.
You have two options for placing charts: on a new worksheet page (choose "As new sheet"), or embedded in the current page (choose "As object in").
If you choose "As new sheet," you must also enter the name of the worksheet. Excel creates a new worksheet with this name, and places the chart there. The new worksheet goes in front of the worksheet that contains the chart data. (You can always move the worksheet to a new position in your workbook by dragging the worksheet tab.)
If you choose "As object in," you must choose one of the worksheets in your workbook. Initially, Excel will select the sheet that contains the chart data. The wizard's steps 2, 3, and 4 are shown in Figure 16-3.
Click Finish to create the chart.
Excel inserts the chart into a new worksheet or alongside your data.