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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.
Gridlines are designed to improve the readability of values in charts. Now you can enhance them. You can use major gridlines as well as minor gridlines, and you can change the color and/or thickness of lines, and you should be careful when using gridlines not to let the lines overwhelm the data. It's a common mistake, or misuse of gridlines. In this particular chart here, major gridlines are in place. Now to control these, you want to click the Layout tab in the Ribbon and choose, in the Axis group here, Gridlines > Primary Horizontal Gridlines.
We can certainly choose None, which of course for the moment, we don't have any gridlines. We might want to show just major gridlines. Showing just minor gridlines probably isn't the choice you want. I'll choose it for the moment just to show you what that looks like. That's probably more information than most of us would need. But here and there it might make sense if it's important for you to read the values. A better choice for that might be to insert data labels where you see the actual numbers next to the columns, but this is certainly one option. Let's look at a third option here under Gridlines > Primary Horizontal > Major & Minor Gridlines. And unlike in prior versions of Excel charts, this essentially does a differentiation for us from our first application.
So you can see here the major gridlines are slightly darker. Actually, to be more precise, they are black lines, whereas the minor gridlines are gray. Now, if that's a bit too strong, you think they should be lighter, let just right-click one of these minor gridlines and then Format Gridlines and perhaps choose a different color. And maybe we'll just use an underline color here, choose a Solid Line, and rather than the suggested blue here, maybe pick a gray. Is this is too light? We'll see. Pick this gray and perhaps it is a bit lighter. Maybe you want even want lighter than that.
In other words, you can experiment with this. I'll choose even lighter one. You can probably barely see that. But it's batter to have these to be not so dominant. And if you think that major gridline is a bit too strong, click it and the dialog box that currently says Format Minor Gridlines will change. Now it says Format Major Gridlines. So we could control the line color there in a similar way. So changing the color of the line here and there will make some sense. Now you want a slightly darker gray. Earlier it was black.
Maybe that's strong enough. An another option, although I wouldn't necessarily suggest you need to go here, is if you do pick the Line Style, you'll see the width of the line. So maybe sometimes simply making the line a bit thicker might help. Now, I make this a lot thicker, perhaps that's too strong. But once again you've got some leeway here, and you can decide what looks best. I would say don't overwhelm your chart by making these too thick or making the colors too dark, but at least you have some control over these. So we've changed the look of this chart. We have minor gridlines. That may be a tough read for you.
I can see these pretty clearly, and you'll have to be the judge of how that looks on paper once you print this. Now in a different kind of chart--and I'm switching sheets here, going over to the City Sales sheet--it makes sense sometimes to have vertical gridlines. Now on the previous chart, the vertical gridlines wouldn't have bought as much, or given as much value, but they certainly might here, and so in this chart, which is a horizontal bar chart, let's go to Layout tab > Gridlines > Primary Vertical Gridlines. Maybe Major & Minor, maybe just Major here.
Click this and see what's happening. If it's important that we get a better read on some of those bars that aren't too close to these vertical lines, then let's go back to Gridlines, Primary Vertical Gridlines, and choose Major & Minor both. So we're in similar territory as we were with the previous chart, and it's just the idea of how do we want to control these? If you want the major ones to stand out more, once again consider widening or changing the major gridlines to a darker color or possibly taking the minor gridlines. In either case, you can right-click on the appropriate lines, format, and make the change that makes sense to you.
This time I'll use a lighter gray, perhaps that one. There we go. Now I can see these well. I'm not so sure that's going to come through on the transmission, but to me that's a lot better than what we saw previously, all based on the idea that the gridlines help us read values within a chart.
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