How to Format Charts in Microsoft Office Excel 2013

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Formatting charts

Excel has so many different formatting options when it comes to charts that you could easily waste a lot of time. Let's make this relatively simple. If we want to create a chart from the data in columns A and B, let's simply select the data. Maybe we're interested in a Pie Chart here. We'll go to the Insert tab in the ribbon and choose Pie, perhaps a 3-D Pie. It looks pretty good. We might not like that a whole lot, but immediately, what do we see in the Chart Tools ribbon, that's active when a chart is selected? We have got a Design tab, Chart Styles, as we slide over these choices, we see some variations.

By the way, when you see these, don't overlook the drop arrow here because there might be more choices than you initially see--and exploring these--that one looks pretty good. Click it. So that's the first thing you might want to consider doing when you create a chart. You also have the same capabilities here exposed by way of the three buttons that you see to the right of a chart whenever a chart is selected. The middle button, the Paintbrush is Chart Styles, so click it and here we see the same choices we saw before, but presented differently.

We can scroll up and down and maybe change our minds by making one of these choices. So that's certainly easy to get to make our changes this way. Now let's work with the other data here. I'm going to shrink this a bit by dragging its corner this way and for the moment that chart doesn't look so good, but we'll put it down here below the data. Let's take a look at this data here. Let's create a chart quickly this time with Alt+F1. We get a Clustered Column chart. It looks pretty good. Chart Styles up above, there they are, same idea as with the Pie Chart.

This time if we click the drop arrow to the right here, we'll see even more choices. So depending upon the chart type, you will see more chart styles and pick the one you like best, maybe this one. Notice how all these choices give us the generic term Chart Title, something we will want to change. Once we have created a chart, we do want to make some changes to it. Certainly Chart Title, we don't want to keep. We might want some explanation as to what these numbers really mean. We might want some information below the chart as well. The legend might be just fine where it is or we could put it elsewhere.

But something you could easily overlook is a feature on the Design tab. Second button from the left is called Quick Layout and when you first click this, it doesn't look too promising, like these images are awfully small. As you slide over these though, keep an eye on the chart to see the differences in these choices. Now nearly all of them contain Chart Title although some don't. Some place the numbers, the values of the columns above them. Some use gridlines, dark and light, some don't. Some place the legend on the right-hand side.

After using the feature for a few times, you'll come to recognize that some choices work better for you. I like this one here, Layout 9. Notice how it provides space for a title at the top and also down the left hand side and also below, so I'll just click it. Now it's pretty obvious I don't want to use the term "Chart Title" so normally what you do is click here, type in something new and press Return--and that's how you adjust the title. But what if you've got a worksheet cell that has data in it? Click Chart Title, click in the Formula Bar, type Equal, and then click the cell that has the label that you want.

In my case here, I want to click D2, the cell right there. Press Enter and the title was placed in here automatically. I don't have a similar title for Axis here and the data apparently is by items sold, so I'll just say, "Items Sold". You can imagine in some cases where you would be typing in something like Value in Dollars or Items Sold in Dollars, something like that. Whatever you type, press Enter and then we see that as the label; and you could of course change that later.

We don't necessarily need a title down below so we could press Delete or if we want to put in the year here, fine, we'll do that, 2013 Sales, and we see that at the bottom of the screen. So that's a quick way to adjust the format, the display of a chart and for some people that's pretty much it-- that might be all they want to do-- but let's not overlook the Format tab. Here's where you could get bogged down if you're not careful, but if you like different colors perhaps on the perimeter of the chart, you might have recognized or picked up on the idea that the inner area of a chart--the one that usually contains a grid and contains columns or bars--is called the "Plot Area".

The outer area near the perimeter of the chart is called "Chart Area". Would you like a color out there? Click Chart Area and then on the Format tab, consider the possibility of changing the styles here. As we slide over these choices, you could see what's happening in the background. If you're a little bit unsure as to what it is you want to use here, well, you might spend a lot of time looking at some of these choices, so you make a choice perhaps. The inner area, maybe you want that to be a contrasting color, so you click there and make a similar choice for the inner area, recognizing quite a few different choices here.

When it comes to other kinds of formatting, you might click here and say, "Well, I want that to be bold, I want some other option here", you might consider going to the Home tab and choose "Bold". So now the text is bold. And use some of the other features available in the Font group on the Home tab. So formatting is certainly important because you want your chart to look a certain way. First approach, again, on the Design tab, choose a Chart Style, after making that choice, go to Quick Layout-- consider some of the options here that will allow you to place the titles and the labeling information appropriately.

Those are the two kinds of features that you want to use to make formatting relatively straightforward as you work with charts.

Formatting charts
Video duration: 5m 42s 6h 32m Appropriate for all


Formatting charts provides you with in-depth training on Business. Taught by Dennis Taylor as part of the Excel 2013 Essential Training

Business Education + Elearning
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