You are on page 1of 13


How to Use Charts and Graphs in Excel

Experiment with Excel charts and graphs to display your data

Share Pin Email

by Ted French
Updated September 23, 2018

Charts and graphs are visual representations of worksheet data. They often make it easier to
understand the data in a  worksheet because users can pick out patterns and trends that are
otherwise di icult to see in the data. Typically, graphs are used to illustrate trends over time,
while charts illustrate patterns or contain information about frequency. Select the Excel chart
or graph format that best illustrates the information for your needs.

Pie Charts
Pie charts (or circle graphs) are used to chart only one variable at a time. As a result, they can
only be used to show percentages.

The circle of pie charts represents 100 percent. The circle is subdivided into slices
representing data values. The size of each slice shows what part of the 100 percent it

Pie charts can be used when you want to show what percent a particular item represents of a
data series. For instance:

A company's pro its for each month can be shown with a pie chart as a percentage of
the year's total pro its.

A baseball player's batting average can be shown with a pie chart because it represents
the percentage of hits compared to the total number of at-bats for a season.

The percentage of your total daily calorie count that one cheese and bacon hamburger

Column Charts
Column charts, also known as bar graphs, are used to show comparisons between items of
data. They are one of the most common types of graph used to display data. The amounts are
displayed using a vertical bar or rectangle, and each column in the chart represents a
different data value. For example:

In a school class, you can use a bar graph to show and compare the number of students
with different hair colors. The more students with a particular hair color, the taller the bar
for that color is on the graph.
You could use different colored columns to illustrate the calories in a cheese and bacon
hamburger compared to the calories in a bowl of beet greens.


Bar graphs make it easy to see the differences in the data being compared.

Bar Charts
Bar charts are column charts that have fallen over on their side. The bars or columns run
horizontally along the page rather than vertically. The axes change as well—the y-axis is the
horizontal axis along the bottom of the chart, and the x-axis runs vertically up the left side.

Line Charts Ad
Line charts, or line graphs, are used to show trends over time. Each line in the graph shows
the changes in the value of one item of data.

Similar to most other graphs, line graphs have a vertical axis and a horizontal axis. If you are
plotting changes in data over time, time is plotted along the horizontal or x-axis, and your
other data, such as rainfall amounts are plotted as individual points along the vertical or y-

When the individual data points are connected by lines, they show changes in the data.

For example, you could show changes in your weight over a period of months as a result of
eating a cheese and bacon hamburger every day for lunch, or you could plot daily changes in
stock market prices. They can also be used to plot data recorded from scienti ic experiments,
such as how a chemical reacts to changing temperature or atmospheric pressure.

Scatter Plot Graphs

Scatter plot graphs are used to show trends in data. They are especially useful when you have
a large number of data points. Like line graphs, they can be used to plot data recorded from
scienti ic experiments, such as how a chemical reacts to changing temperature or
atmospheric pressure.


Is Your Inbox Out of Control?

Believe it or not, our free, daily newsletter can help you use tech better and declutter your
inbox. Sign up now!

Whereas line graphs connect the dots or points of data to show every change, with a scatter
plot you draw a "best it" line. The data points are scattered about the line. The closer the data
points are to the line the stronger the correlation or effect one variable has on the other.

If the best it line increases from left to right, the scatter plot shows a positive correlation in
the data. If the line decreases from left to right, there is a negative correlation in the data.

Combo Charts
Combo charts combine two different types of charts into one display. Typically, the two charts
are a line graph and a column chart. To accomplish this, Excel makes use of a third axis called
the secondary Y axis, which runs up the right side of the chart.

Combination charts can display average monthly temperature and precipitation data
together, manufacturing data such as units produced and the cost of production, or monthly
sales volume and average monthly sale price.

Pictographs or pictograms are column charts that use pictures to represent data instead of
the standard colored columns. A pictograph could use hundreds of hamburger images
stacked one on top of the other to show how many calories one cheese and bacon hamburger
contains compared to a tiny stack of images for beet greens.

Stock Market Charts

Stock Market charts show information about stocks or shares such as their opening and
closing prices and the volume of shares traded during a certain period. There are different
types of stock charts available in Excel. Each shows different information.

Newer versions of Excel also include Surface charts, XY Bubble (or Scatter) charts, and Radar


Adding a Chart in Excel
The best way to learn about the various charts in Excel is to try them out.

01 Open an Excel ile that contains data.

02 Select the range you want to graph by shift-clicking from the irst cell to the last.

03 Click on the Insert tab and select Chart from the drop-down menu.

04 Select one of the chart types from the sub-menu. When you do, the Chart Design tab
opens showing the options for the particular type of chart you chose. Make your
selections and see the chart appear in the document. 

You probably need to experiment to determine which chart type works best with your chosen
data, but you can look at the various chart types quickly to see which works best for you.

Was this page helpful?

How to Understand the Use of Chart Data and Other Elements in Excel

Plot Area in Excel and Google Spreadsheets


Here Are Some Tips on How to Show or Hide Chart Axes in Excel

How to Make a Graph in Google Sheets Ad

Easy as Pie Charts in Excel

Creating an 8 Column Chart in Excel is Easier Than You May Think

Here's How to Create an Easy Column Chart in Excel

Here's How to Create Exploding Pie Charts in Excel

How to Combine Chart Types in Excel to Display Related Data

Create a Pie Chart on a PowerPoint 2010 Slide

Learn to Make and Format a Column Chart in Excel
6 Steps to Customizing a Column Chart in Excel

New to Excel? Get Started With These Excel Tutorials for Beginners

Here's How to Add an Excel Chart to a PowerPoint Presentation

5 Steps to Making & Formatting a Line Graph in Excel

Learn How to Easily Create a Chart in Excel for iPad

Is Your Inbox Out of Control?

Believe it or not, our free, daily newsletter can help you use tech better and declutter your
inbox. Sign up now!

Follow Us




About Us Advertise

Privacy Policy Cookie Policy

Careers Editorial Guidelines

Contact Terms of Use

Lifewire is part of the Dotdash publishing family.

The Balance | ThoughtCo | The Spruce | TripSavvy and more