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Each part of an Excel chart has a name and although it's not important to memorize those, you want to get used to the idea that a chart is comprised of various elements. In this worksheet called ChartElements in the 07-Charting workbook, if we select the chart--it's depicting the data in columns D through I--depending upon where we click and how we move the mouse around, words pop up on the screen. For example, I just slid the mouse into the area where the columns are and we see the term "Plot Area"; slide up here, we see the term "Chart Area".
Point to one of the columns, we see that it's part of a series; point to the data along the left hand side that's the Vertical Axis; down below, we have got a Horizontal Axis and so on. If there are gridlines, if we point to them, we will see that we have got possibly major gridlines and maybe minor gridlines. If the Format tab is active and it will be if the chart is selected--it's part of the Chart Tools ribbon--the upper left corner in the current selection group contains the name of the current element, the one that's selected.
If you click on the chart and start using the down or up arrows that's another way to see the elements--no real reason to do this except possibly to take stock of what can be selected--there for example are the gridlines. And we see that in the upper left hand corner, there is the Title, Chart Title and so on. We sometimes want to make changes. For example, in this chart we have got gridlines here, but maybe they are not strong enough, they are kind of weak-looking, so we might want to make changes simply by right-clicking on one of the gridlines. If you right-click a chart element, you will get a menu that encloses the word "Format" followed by the element that you had clicked, for example, Format Gridlines. And that activates a dialog box over on the right hand side with many choices depending upon which element you have selected.
In this case I want to make the lines thicker, the term is "Width", it's currently 0.75, I will change this maybe to be 2. You can see the lines, getting thicker already. That's what it would look like if it were three, maybe two is better. So we'll make a choice here. And we are done, and we close the dialog box. Maybe we don't like the way the scaling is done here, maybe someone else has been working with this chart, why does the scaling go to 1000, looks like it only needs to go to 700 or 800 or so. So we right-click the Axis area and choose Format Axis, again, activating the dialog box over in the right hand side.
It shows us we have got a Minimum and a Maximum, we can go with the automatic settings--looks like someone has altered this a bit--we might change this to 800 or maybe change it to 900; simply do a reset maybe, see what happens. What happens now? It looks like it goes to 800. We could override that, we might put in 750. So we have got some control over this. And the idea here is not to create "make work projects", but to suggest that we do have some options for controlling the display here. So, right-clicking any element leads us into some other choices.
Right click Chart Area and choose Format Chart Area and we see some choices out there too. Those tend to be mostly visual, but we sometimes want to make some changes. Now, there is another approach to this too, when a chart is selected, of the three buttons on the right hand side, the top one plus indicates Chart Elements. Add, remove or change chart elements such as the title, legend, gridlines and data labels. Now we haven't even seen that term "data labels", maybe, what does that mean? As soon as we click the choice, we do see the Chart Elements that are currently active.
And we don't see anything about data labels--what are they? Let's go here. Well, immediately we see something happening on the screen. Now, there is an arrow to the right, let's click it, center, and look what's happening on the chart or inside end. The data labels that we might want to consider using can be placed on the columns here. As we look to these choices, we decide whether we like this or not, I think we probably wouldn't care for that one; make a choice here. That's provided of course, we do want data labels. Looking a little crowded there. That might work better if we had fewer sets of columns here, fewer series, but nevertheless that's a choice you might want to make.
So from time to time, I think you do want to explore these to see what they might do to make this chart look better. Data table, probably not a good choice here, it simply replicates the data. This might be a good choice if you have a chart on its own sheet. Axis Titles, off to the left and bottom we don't have them right now, maybe we want them. You make decisions about how you want to change the appearance of the chart. And this might be a good starting point because it does alert you to some of the terminology. It does give you some ideas. We do have Gridlines here, but you may or may not have been aware of the idea that with gridlines can come also--by clicking the arrow here--Primary Major Horizontal which we have seen; how about Primary Minor Horizontal? Now those are very faint, I can see them you probably can't.
But I could, if I wished, then select these minor horizontal lines and make them thicker or use a different color. And again, I think the danger here is not to get bogged down in features that you never even knew about, but to give more impetus and weight to the visuals in the chart, make the changes that you want. I think the gridlines actually look pretty good here, so I am going to bring them back. Not too sure about the data labels, but we can leave them there for awhile. If the chart gets bigger or if we decide to show a fewer series, maybe those numbers aren't quite bumping into each other so easily.
We could also right-click one of the numbers and choose Format Data Labels and possibly make some changes there too, either going to the sizing and maybe reconsider the positioning too. So lots of choices here for controlling the various Chart Elements that exist within Excel Charts.
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