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In this course, Dennis Taylor shows how to analyze and communicate the value of data with charts in Excel. The course starts with the foundations: what the parts of a chart are, what the different types of charts are, and which charts work best for your data. The course then shows how to create a presentation-ready chart in minutes and offers dozens of in-depth tutorials on formatting and fine-tuning charts so they represent data clearly and accurately.
Excel has quite a few different chart types. Get familiar with that term. You'll hear that a lot. Certainly the most common for many, many people are column charts. There is one below the data we see on this worksheet to the left. A line chart is to the right of it. Not all chart types are equally effective in showing the data in a meaningful way. Most Excel users agree that a line chart, for example like the one we're seeing here to the right of the data is best for showing a trend, although sometimes a column chart might work equally well for you.
Usually column and bar charts are probably better for depicting volumes or amounts of data. Other chart types might have special uses that make them effective with certain data collections, but despite the over 70 choices of charts available, I think it's really best to experiment with different kinds of charts until you get a little more familiar with the idea and what works best for you. On this worksheet of course, you do see quite a few different chart types, and most people, with myself included, wouldn't be using this many different chart types here.
The chart to the lower right here is a 3D column chart. Those have some initial visual appeal, but they are certainly not the best for actually getting a good read on the data. Even if I zoom in on this a little bit and scroll around and make that a little more obvious, it's pretty hard, as I point for example, to this red value, to know what this value is until we actually point to it and it tells it that it's 100. Would you read that by seeing the gridlines in the background? The value of a chart like this might be that it shows the relative difference of the various column heights, and similarly, other kinds of charts have some visual appeal as well.
The pie chart to the right, if we are trying to show, for example, what's happened in the first six months, we do get a quick read here that suggests, as we look back and forth with a numbers and the pie there, that April was a substantial chunk. But is it bigger than June? Can we tell that? Well, you look at the numbers and I think we're seeing one of the deficiencies of this kind of chart. Now, one by one, as we talked about, pie charts, column charts, line charts, bar charts, and a lot of the other major types here, I think you can begin to see some advantages and disadvantages.
The more I look at this, the more I say, well, that purple wedge in front to me still looks bigger than that yellow or gold wedge, whatever you want to call it, back there that represents June. And yet the purple wedge upfront is 130 and that June value in the back is 180. So here and there, as we look at different chart types--and again, experiment freely and let's point out right now, even though perhaps you haven't created too many charts or maybe none at all, anytime you do click a chart, for example I just clicked this pie chart, you will see in the menu system there is a Design tab up top. Click that and as you do, the leftmost button amongst those many choices, Change Chart Type.
And here are 73 variations, and they are in groups: column charts, line charts, pie charts, and quite a few variations within each. 73 altogether. Nobody is really counting. But maybe this will look better as a column chart, so I'll just double-click this. That's slightly faster and we're seeing the data this way now. Is that better? I'm not necessarily going to say it is, but at least we can see at a glance, we're not seeing the proportion so much, but we do see clearly that June is a lot bigger than the others. So on the next sheet over is a sheet called ColumnChart, and here are some variations on column charts.
I am going to zoom in a little bit on this one too. We will in other movies talk more about the different kinds of column charts and why you might want them. I do want to say that it's a safe choice because it is the default selection in Excel when you create a chart. If you don't do anything unusual or different or if you haven't changed the default, you will get a column chart, and there are number of variations on column charts, as we see them here. Almost the same as this but rotated 90 degrees is a bar chart, and here is a sheet with some bar charts on them.
And sometimes it's just a question of your own personal preference. One advantage to a bar chart is if the labels are wider or longer--in this case they're not--but that's one reason to show this kind of a chart. Here we see the months down the side. And in a later movie when we talk about bar charts, we pull that feature out or emphasize that point a little more strongly. But sometimes it's just a question of personal choice. Does this tell the story properly? Is it making the data clear to people? And that's the main focus, or should be the main thrust, as we talk about charts.
Do you have to spend a lot of time explaining how to read the chart? If you do, perhaps it's not the best chart. And again, we can change these so quickly. You say maybe I like that, but I might like it better as a column chart. We'll go right to the Design tab, click Change Chart Type, pick whichever chart type we might want, one of those sub-choices under Column, maybe this one. Double-click it and now it's a column chart, and maybe it is better. There is lot of subjectivity in all this too. Sometimes we see charts that we don't see as often as others, for example an AreaChart.
Now this might be just as good as a line chart, but if we're trying to suggest volume perhaps, maybe this is a better. Maybe it's a bit more dramatic. Let's change it to a line chart. Compare it. Again, never hesitate to make a change, because you can easily change it back or change it to another type. Back to the Design type. Change Chart Type. This time we'll make it a line. Whenever you are using lines, my first choice usually and I recommend it for you, Line with Markers. Let's try this. Double-click.
You might want to change the size of the markers, but there is a different approach to showing this data. The drop lines, by the way, don't come automatically with charts. They were added in these two cases. So that's another option, too, which we'll get into it a bit later. So don't worry about changing a chart. Don't worry about coming across as somewhat indecisive. You want to see the different ways to display data. You also might encounter a scatter chart. This example here is comparing various times for a race along with the age of the participants, and you'll see this kind of chart from time to time as well too.
It's called a scatter chart. It's one of the many different choices we have in Excel. And again without constantly harping on it, anytime you click on a chart with the Design tab, always take a look at Change Chart Type. Consider what the chart might look like if you change it to a different kind of chart. One thing about pie charts I meant to mention here, too-- I'll go back to one of our line charts here. How would this look as a pie chart? I think almost immediately you can say that's not going to look so good. Well, you're right. Let's just do it anyway to point out an aspect of that type as well.
Design, top of the screen there left button, Change Chart Type, and we'll make it a pie. 3D pie may be more exciting. We'll try that. And I think you can see what's going on there. And even if we put labels on them, the general rule--and it varies a little bit--but I think on pie charts as soon as you get over a five or six wedges, or items and data that you're trying to show, some pie charts are just not going to be very readable. And we can tilt this. We can do other things with it. We could make it be 2D. It might be a little bit better there, instead of 3D.
Change Chart Type again, left button, this time a 2D pie, a little better, but still, a lot to be desired. Not a great choice at all. So as we got some obvious choices here and there. Not so obvious at different times, and lot of subjectivity, but just keep in mind the idea that you're trying to depict numerical information in a very clear visual way, and Excel gives us quite a few starting points, 73 different chart types to start from. If you relatively new, again stick to column, line, pie, and bar.
For most people, those are likely to be the best choices. The ease with which you can change a chart type is one of Excel's great features, and not only is it easy to use, I actually would encourage you to use it frequently, just to get a different sense of how data can appear more or less effectively.
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