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Create a chart

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create a chart

A good chart contains not only data, but also descriptive labels that help the user understand the data. For example, you should be able to tell at a glance that a certain pie slice represents 30 percent of the whole, as well as that it represents the East region.

You may have created charts before in Excel, so some of this may be a review; that's okay, just skip ahead to the material that's new to you.




Before you create a chart, make sure that your worksheet contains text labels for every pertinent value. Other elements, such as legends, data labels, and multiple series, are optional and their use depends on what you're trying to convey.

Next, decide what data is to appear in the chart, and then select both that data and any associated data labels. For example, in Figure 5-6, suppose you want a pie chart containing just the data for the South region, so you've selected the data labels in column A and the South region's data in column C. This shows an important point: the range you select for a chart need not necessarily be one contiguous range. To select a noncontiguous range like this one, hold down the Ctrl key as you drag across the ranges you want.

Figure 5-6: Start a chart by selecting the range(s) containing the data and labels for it.
Figure 5-6: Start a chart by selecting the range(s) containing the data and labels for it.

After selecting the data, follow these steps to make the chart:

  1. Click the Chart Wizard button on the Standard toolbar. The Chart Wizard Step 1 of 4 dialog box opens.
  2. Click the chart type you want from the types at the left, and then click the subtype from the list at the right. In Figure 5-7, for example, we're creating a 3D pie chart. Click Next.

Figure 5-7: Select the desired chart type.
Figure 5-7: Select the desired chart type.

  1. In the Step 2 of 4 dialog box, confirm the data range, changing it if needed, as shown in Figure 5-8, and then click Next

TIP
With a simple range like the one in our example, it's hard to go wrong. If the range contains multiple rows and columns of numbers, however, you might want to change the plotting. Back in Figures 5-3 and 5-4, recall that the presentation was very different when plotted by rows versus by columns. In this step of the Wizard, you can choose Rows or Columns, whichever is more appropriate to your message.

Figure 5-8: Confirm the data range, and switch between Rows and Columns as needed.
Figure 5-8: Confirm the data range, and switch between Rows and Columns as needed.



  1. In the Step 3 of 4 dialog box, you can enter the labels for the chart. Do so as needed. The labels for the individual data series were included in the range you selected beforehand (the months, in our example). However, this step gives you the opportunity to also include general labels for the entire chart, such as an overall title, or labels for the vertical and horizontal axes (not applicable to pie charts).

The legend is the key to the chart. It's a little box that shows what each color or pattern in the chart represents; you saw legends in Figures 5-3, 5-4, and 5-5, for example.

  1. Click the Legend tab in the Step 3 of 4 dialog box and choose where you want the legend to appear (or if you want it at all). Click Next when you're finished with the Step 3 of 4 tabs.
  2. Click the Data Labels tab in the Step 3 of 4 dialog box and mark the checkboxes for any data labels you want to appear on the chart.

TIP
Using data labels is a strategic decision that will depend on the goal of your chart. If the exact values or percentages are important, you want them displayed; if the goal is to present a big-picture overview, you probably don't want them.

  1. In the Step 4 of 4 dialog box, choose where you want the chart to appear. You can make it appear as a floating object on an existing sheet, or you can create a brand-new chart sheet in the workbook for it, as shown in Figure 5-9.

Figure 5-9: Specify where the chart should appear in the workbook.
Figure 5-9: Specify where the chart should appear in the workbook.

  1. Click Finish. Your finished chart appears.

The chart might not be exactly the way you want it initially; that's okay. In the next few pages, you learn how to make changes to it.






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