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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.
Line charts are invariably mentioned as the kinds of charts that you would want to use if you're trying to show a trend, or sometimes the lack of a trend. In the examples that we are seeing here are two full charts and a portion of a chart to the right, three different kinds of line charts showing different kinds of data. As you look at line charts, one thing that might not have occurred to you is that the ratio of height to width can skew your impression of what actually is happening in the data. We will talk about that in more detail in a bit.
We also want to point out the difference, as I scroll rightward here, that in that purple background chart, the one that says Domestic Sales, the lines are as they would normally appear. Maybe we would call them jagged for want of a better term, but the lines connect point to point. That's default setting in Excel. The chart to the right, however, has the lines looking much smoother. They're curved as we move from point to point. Those points, by the way, are very small. You've got control over the points. You've got control over the curving, it's actually called smoothing, and also the thickness of lines has some bearing as well too.
There are a lot of different ways to control these. One simple difference on the middle chart here, Domestic Sales, if I want the lines to be thicker, one approach could be on the design tab, make one of the many chart style choices. Maybe I like this one. On the other hand, maybe that's too thick. Maybe it isn't. But we have got our choices here. Easy to get to. That might be just fine. If you were to right-click here, you could go to Format Data Series and control the thickness that way. Once again these are features that no doubt you've seen at different times. This would be under Line Style.
You control the thickness. I will make that bigger. I will just change that 5 to an 8 and as soon as we press Enter, you will see what happens. So that may or may not be what you want to do at different times. Now let's talk about the idea here that you might want this to appear to be smoother. Let's do a right-click again here, and that may contribute to the idea that maybe we want it to be thinner. Let's do the smoothing first, but we will change our minds as we try these different features. And we are talking here about the line style, and there is that choice Smoothed line, and you see what's happening in the background. And while we are here, if we want to revert to a thinner line, we will go up to the Width up top and change that to something smaller.
As I'm clicking the arrows here, you can see that getting thinner. That may or may not be what you need to do. While we are here, let's talk about the Marker Line Style, or the Marker Fill, the Marker Options here. We could go to Built-in here. Here is the diamond that we are currently seeing that, but you might choose another one and you can fill it in. That's the default. We see that to the left. And the diamond might be just fine. Some people like the X, but decide which one you might want there. You see the difference. We will go back to the other one, a diamond, and you can of course choose different colors.
Here's where you adjust the size. I'll click this. Maybe that will look better if we choose a smaller size marker. So quite a few choices there too. Now with this chart and the chart to the left what if we ignore for the moment the title and just imagine suppose there isn't really Sales. Maybe it has to do with increased reports of crime or maybe some kind of an absentee report. I know the numbers are quite large, but if we make this chart a lot wider, now at some point perhaps people are going to say 'why is it that wide?' so you don't always want to draw attention to it.
But there's no denying that the numbers here are increasing over time. But as I press Ctrl+Z here and go back to the previous setting a couple of times, what if I were to make that chart taller? Well, obviously it's going up. It's pretty erratic, some jumps up and down. But that tells a different story than had we kept the chart this way. Let me get the other one out of the way too. So we are talking about exactly the same data but a different impression. And maybe on this chart here Domestic Sales-- I will move it around a little bit-- watch this one if we make it a lot wider.
Now if we were trying to report something was negative, like maybe that was lack of participation in a certain program or something, it's going up, so it's a negative kind of trend, even though it's going up. We might want to hide that a little bit by flattening out the line charge. On the other hand, if we were trying to show increased participation or increased sales or profits, let's take that same chart and make it be a lot taller. Even though it's got some ups and downs in it, I think you can see, as I press Ctrl+Z to go back to the previous chart, Ctrl+Y back and forth here, you can begin to see how the same data, when displayed differently in a line chart using a different height-to-width ratio, sometimes called the aspect ratio, you in effect are telling a different story.
If you did want to continue to accentuate the change here moving upward, you could also right-click on the axis here and format the axis and start the axis, for example, at 80. Go to the Minimum value here, choose Fixed. The first item in that chart is 80. As I press Close here, watch that chart to the left--even steeper looking. And we could also clip off the top too to make it even steeper. So again pressing Ctrl+Z to move back a bit here, you can see how the same data certainly can look different with a different display of the aspect ratio in a line chart.
The Smoothing, as we mentioned earlier, is something you may or may not want to use. Perhaps it accentuates the trend. It could have been used on the larger chart here. Right-click on the line, Format Data Series, and on the Line Style here, Smoothed line, and you see it happening already. There too. You want to experiment freely with the aspect ratio and these various approaches to making the line chart look the way you think it looks best.
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