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Selecting data to display as a chart

From: Excel 2007: Charts in Depth

Video: Selecting data to display as a chart

Many Excel users are surprised, after creating their first chart, how easy it was, and if you haven't created a chart before, I think you're going to be surprised. There are some great shortcuts. There are some easy ways to do this. But no matter how create a chart, the first step is always thinking about which data it is you'd like to see portrayed in the chart and then actually selecting that data. As we look at the two sets of data here on this worksheet called Chart Data, actually it's the same data, just aligned differently. Let's focus on the top portion rows 4 through 11.

Selecting data to display as a chart

Many Excel users are surprised, after creating their first chart, how easy it was, and if you haven't created a chart before, I think you're going to be surprised. There are some great shortcuts. There are some easy ways to do this. But no matter how create a chart, the first step is always thinking about which data it is you'd like to see portrayed in the chart and then actually selecting that data. As we look at the two sets of data here on this worksheet called Chart Data, actually it's the same data, just aligned differently. Let's focus on the top portion rows 4 through 11.

I've highlighted in green, not necessarily the required area, but let's say the area that we'd be most interested in, and right away you might be thinking, "Well, that's a mix of numbers and text. How is this all going to work." You certainly can create a chart by first selecting any data you want. But if I were to select just this data here, and right away you might be thinking, "Well, why didn't I choose the Total? How about the Percent?" Let's just say that many, many times, in most charts, mixing the actual detailed data with summary data doesn't work so well.

We'll show you that in a bit as to why it's not so great. But suppose you were thinking about well I guess Excel is all about, you know, showing numbers and I've been told that, so let's highlight these numbers. But nearly every time you work with numbers, you typically have a row on top of the data. You usually have a column on the left-hand side that goes with that data. Select it all together. This will simplify your use of creating charts. It's going to be a lot simpler if you do that. And as a general rule, as I suggested, leave off totals along with the detail.

Don't do them together. Many, many times highlighting the data, just like this, is the first step. Now on the next sheet over called Line-Chart, if we wanted to create a line chart, maybe something like this one or maybe working with the data over on the left-hand side, we might just simply click and drag across these two columns. In the example here, the data goes down to about row 30 or so. If we wanted all that data to appear in the chart, along with the headings, we might as well drag across the columns themselves, so either way.

Now going back to that first sheet again. Suppose, for example, you wanted to create a chart for presentation and said, "Well, in this particular example, we do want to show the sales for Domestic and Europe and Latin America but not in Asia." Sometimes what you will do is highlight non-contiguous data, in other words highlight a portion of the data that you want and then let go over the mouse, use the Ctrl key, and highlight another portion. And although the highlighting for the moment isn't quite as clear as we might want it to be, I've selected data in rows four, five, and six, only columns A through G, and then in row eight, column A through G, but not row seven.

Now, we are going to get into the mechanics of creating a chart, but let's simply create a chart here quickly to show what will happen. And as you would expect based on what I've said, we will not get Asia in this mix. So the standard way to create a chart from the Ribbon at the top of the screen, click Insert, and then we'll just click Column first time around and pick the first choice, and there we are. And you'll notice in the example here that Asia is not selected, and so you do have a choice when you're selecting data. I think almost 98% of the time, when you select data, it's going to be contiguous. In other words highlight all of this, and sure enough, if we were able to go to the Insert tab now and choose chart, Column again like we did the first time around, we will get a chart that does include Asia this time around.

Now with certain clusters of data, for example, on the next sheet over called Line-Chart, if you simply put the mouse within data and then create a chart, Excel automatically picks up the surrounding data. Sometimes you'll hear the term 'current region'. So without highlighting the data here and clicking on only one cell in this range here and then going to Insert and choose Column again, click this, and there we see all the data represent this way. And again you can tell by the highlighting, we haven't explained that just yet, but you see the way the data to the left is selected automatically? As I scroll downward, it only goes down to the extent of the data.

So sometimes you're in a hurry and you'll forget to select the data you want, and Excel might do a good job of selecting everything that you intended anyway. Now going back to that first sheet again, if I were let's say a little careless or in a hurry and wasn't paying attention here, if I simply click in this data here and create a chart, what will Excel do? It'll attempt to use all of this contiguous data right here. So this is not going to be a great choice this time. Of course we can easily get rid of this, but I'll just simply create a chart this way, as we've been doing, and we see what's happening there.

And I think you can see clearly that the percentages just don't work at all on this kind of a chart along with the other data, and the totals don't either, and that's why earlier I had suggested keep totals and details out of each other's way so to speak--in other words, don't put them in the same kind of chart. Now you could easily imagine someone saying, "Well I do want to see a chart showing just the totals, but I do want the labels." And so if I were to highlight just the data in column A--and notice that I'm picking up cell A4 here as I do this--as well as the data in column H, so I'll let go the mouse, hold down the Ctrl key, highlight these cells here.

So I've got the five cells highlighted over in column A and the five cells highlighted over in column H, and this would be perhaps a good candidate for a pie chart. We'll go to Insert > Pie > 2-D pie this time. There we go, and there is our chart showing the percentage breakout. Obviously, it needs labels and some other things, but it does suggest we are selecting noncontiguous areas, column A to pick up the actual text data for the chart and column H for the actual numbers that are being represented by the pieces of the pie.

So by specifically highlighting cells or using cells in what Excel sometimes calls the current regions, just by clicking in one of those, or by selecting noncontiguous cells, you can quickly start the whole chart-creation process.

Show transcript

This video is part of

Image for Excel 2007: Charts in Depth
Excel 2007: Charts in Depth

53 video lessons · 9597 viewers

Dennis Taylor
Author

 
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  1. 1m 49s
    1. Welcome
      1m 3s
    2. Using the exercise files
      46s
  2. 22m 7s
    1. Identifying chart elements like plot area, chart area, gridlines, and legends
      5m 3s
    2. Selecting the right chart type
      8m 2s
    3. Understanding chart terminology
      6m 31s
    4. Understanding the Ribbon and the Design, Layout, and Format tabs
      2m 31s
  3. 16m 24s
    1. Selecting data to display as a chart
      6m 17s
    2. Creating charts instantly with shortcuts
      4m 33s
    3. Creating charts with standard menu commands
      2m 24s
    4. Creating presentation-ready charts with just a few adjustments
      3m 10s
  4. 28m 8s
    1. Switching rows and columns for a different view of the data
      3m 9s
    2. Setting a default chart type and creating a template
      3m 47s
    3. Dealing with empty and hidden cells
      4m 18s
    4. Choosing a chart layout
      4m 33s
    5. Choosing a chart style from 48 colorful variations
      3m 34s
    6. Changing the location of a chart
      3m 33s
    7. Moving and resizing a chart
      5m 14s
  5. 11m 25s
    1. Using pictures as chart elements
      3m 55s
    2. Adding shapes and arrows
      3m 37s
    3. Adding floating text and text boxes
      3m 53s
  6. 33m 45s
    1. Adding, editing, and removing chart titles
      3m 15s
    2. Adding horizontal and vertical titles
      3m 56s
    3. Linking titles to content
      2m 32s
    4. Showing numbers of different scales
      4m 38s
    5. Specifying the position of tick marks and axis labels
      2m 41s
    6. Changing the numeric format on labels
      5m 34s
    7. Adding, editing, and removing legends
      3m 19s
    8. Adding and editing data labels
      4m 40s
    9. Showing the source of a chart's data
      3m 10s
  7. 8m 13s
    1. Modifying axis scaling
      3m 50s
    2. Working with gridlines
      4m 23s
  8. 12m 53s
    1. Analyzing existing and future data with trendlines
      4m 2s
    2. Adding drop lines
      3m 14s
    3. Adding high-low lines and up-down bars
      1m 39s
    4. Adding error bars
      3m 58s
  9. 9m 13s
    1. Selecting shape fill and outline
      3m 3s
    2. Adding shape effects
      3m 19s
    3. Applying WordArt styles
      2m 51s
  10. 16m 33s
    1. Formatting lines and borders
      4m 24s
    2. Filling an area with a color gradient
      2m 7s
    3. Specifying line style, color, and weight
      2m 46s
    4. Working with chart text
      3m 40s
    5. Changing the rotation of chart text
      3m 36s
  11. 38m 39s
    1. Using column and bar charts
      7m 24s
    2. Using line charts
      5m 46s
    3. Using pie charts
      8m 37s
    4. Using area, stock, and XY charts
      9m 3s
    5. Using doughnut, bubble, and radar charts
      7m 49s
  12. 10m 55s
    1. Pasting new data into a chart
      2m 58s
    2. Creating charts from multiple data sources
      3m 39s
    3. Adding new data using a table
      4m 18s
  13. 6m 19s
    1. Printing charts
      6m 19s
  14. 19s
    1. Next steps
      19s

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