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Microsoft Excel 2008

Working with Chart Elements

Adding titles, legends, axes, labels, tables, and gridlines to your chart can give it a helpful visual boost. Learning how to use these charting features in Excel 2008 can make your charts more efficient. This document will explain several options on how to add more features to your chart. To refresh your knowledge about charts, refer to About Charting.

NOTE: This document assumes you have already created your chart.

return to topAdding a Chart Title

Chart titles should provide a concise summary of the information displayed.

  1. Select your chart

  2. Click TOOLBOXToolbox button
    The Formatting Palette appears.

  3. From the Formatting Palette, click CHART OPTIONS
    The Chart Options toolbar appears.
    Chart Options toolbar

  4. From the Click here to add title text box, type a name for your chart

  5. OPTIONAL: To reposition your chart title,
    1. From the chart, click the Chart Title text box
    2. Move the cursor to the border of the text box so it displays a four-headed arrowFour-headed arrow
    3. Click and drag the text box to the desired location
    4. Release the mouse button
      The chart title is repositioned.

return to topWorking with Axes

In charts, axes are the two lines that frame your data. The horizontal line is called the x-axis; the vertical line is called the y-axis. One of them will be a Value axis, which displays numerical values that measure charted categories, and the other will be a Category axis, which displays one or more data series that are measured against each other by numerical values. The field created by these intersecting axes contain visual indicators (e.g., bars, columns, dots) that give readers an intuitive understanding of your chart data. Axis labels (automatically assigned by Excel when you create your chart) connect this visual information with specific data categories, providing the context readers need to make sense of your chart. Since axes and axis labels are such important parts of an effective chart, Excel provides extensive formatting options.

NOTES:
Pie charts do not have axes.
When setting up your chart, it is important to understand how Excel will display your worksheet data (e.g., what information will be assigned to which axis). For basic information on how Excel converts worksheet data into charts, refer to About Charting and Creating a Basic Chart.

Changing the Interval of the Category Axis

Both horizontal and vertical axes can be the Category axis. With the Category axis, you can change the interval of units between the tick marks. If your desired axis is the Value axis, refer to Changing the Interval of the Value Axis.

NOTE: If your category axis is denoted by words or phrases, the Automatic option will suffice in most cases.

  1. Double click the Category axis
    The Format Axis dialog box appears.
    Format Axis dialog box

  2. From the Categories list, select Scale

  3. In the Interval between tick marks text box, type the number of units you want between the tick marks of your chart's x-axis

  4. Click OK
    The scaling is applied.

Changing the Interval of the Value Axis

Both horizontal and vertical axes can be the Value axis. With the Value axis, you can change the interval of units between the tick marks as well as set a maximum and minimum value for the axis. If your desired axis is the Category axis, refer to Changing the Interval of the Category Axis.

  1. To change the intervals of the Value axis,
    1. Double click the Value axis you want to adjust
      The Format Axis dialog box appears.
    2. From the Categories list, select Scale
      The Format Axis dialog box refreshes to display the Scale options.
      Format Axis dialog box - Scale options

  2. To change the minimum value of the y-axis, in the Minimum text box, type the minimum value you want the y-axis to display

  3. To change the maximum value of the y-axis, in the Maximum text box, type the maximum value you want the y-axis to display

  4. To change the number of units between the y-axis tick marks, in the Major unit text box, type the number of units you want between the y-axis tick marks

  5. To change the number of units between the Major units, in the Minor unit text box, type the number of units you want between the Major units

  6. Click OK
    The adjustments are applied.

Adding an Axis Title

  1. Click the chart

  2. Click TOOLBOXToolbox button
    The Formatting Palette appears.

  3. From the Formatting Palette, click CHART OPTIONS
    The Chart Options toolbar appears.

  4. From the Titles pull-down menu, select the desired axis
    EXAMPLE: Horizontal (Category) Axis
    Chart Options toolbar

  5. From the Click here to add title text box, type the desired axis title
    EXAMPLE: Names

  6. OPTIONAL: To reposition your axis title
    1. From the chart, click the Axis Title text box
    2. Move the cursor to the border of the text box so it displays a four-headed arrowFour-headed arrow
    3. Click and drag the text box to the desired location
    4. Release the mouse button
      The axis title is repositioned.

Changing the Display of the Axes

You can alter chart axes in certain ways through the Layout command tab. Depending what chart you are using, the Value and Category axes will be on either the x- or y-axes (e.g., the x-axis on a column chart is the Category axis, and the x-axis on a bar chart is the Value axis). You can change the order of categories, add or remove axis labels and tick marks, or change the scaling of the Value axis.

NOTE: When changing the scaling of the Value axis through the Layout command tab, you may only do so exponentially. To customize the scaling of axes, refer to Changing the Interval of the Value Axis and Changing the Interval of the Category Axis.

  1. Double click the desired axis
    The Format axis dialog box appears.

  2. From the Categories list, select the desired option
    EXAMPLE: To change the tick marks, from the Categories list, select Ticks » make the desired changes.

return to topAdding a Legend

A legend will help readers understand the graphical components of your chart. For example, in a bar chart, the legend tells your readers what each bar of a particular color or pattern represents. Without a legend, readers would see categories on one axis (e.g., specific assignments), numerical values another axis (e.g., number of points received), but they would not know what the bars on the graph represent (e.g., individual students).

HINT: Legends can be placed anywhere within the chart area, but are commonly located at the right of the chart.

NOTES:
If you choose to include a data table and have selected the Show Data Table with Legend Keys option, adding a legend will display redundant information.
For pie charts, use data labels rather than a legend.
Legend descriptions should be as concise as possible.

  1. Click the chart

  2. Click TOOLBOXToolbox button
    The Formatting Palette appears.

  3. From the Formatting Palette, click CHART OPTIONS
    The Chart Options toolbar appears.
    Chart Options toolbar

  4. Under Other options, from the Legend: pull-down menu » select the desired location of the legend
    EXAMPLE: Right

  5. OPTIONAL: To reposition your legend
    1. From the chart, click on the legend
    2. Move the cursor to the border of the text box so it displays a four-headed arrowFour-headed arrow
    3. Click and drag the box to the desired location
    4. Release the mouse button
      The legend is repositioned.

return to topAdding Data Labels

Data labels display the exact measurements of the information used to create the chart beside the bars, columns, lines, and points that represent them. They can be especially useful if you have a wide or tall chart. However, on some charts, data labels may interfere with the chart's readability. Be sure to test data labels on your chart before using them on your final chart.

  1. Click the chart

  2. Click TOOLBOXToolbox button
    The Formatting Palette appears.

  3. From the Formatting Palette, click CHART OPTIONS
    The Chart Options toolbar appears.
    Chart Options toolbar

  4. Under Other options, from the Labels: pull-down menu, select Value or Category Name

return to topAdding a Data Table

A data table shows the raw data that is used to create a graph. Similar to data labels, they can be especially useful when exactness is required to interpret the chart. However, data tables take up space on the chart area, and will shrink the plot area. You may need to resize the chart after adding a data table.

  1. Click the chart

  2. Click TOOLBOXToolbox button
    The Formatting Palette appears.

  3. On the Formatting Palette, click CHART DATA
    The Chart Data toolbar appears.
    Chart Data toolbar

  4. From the Data Table pull-down menu » select Data Table

return to topAdding Gridlines

Gridlines can increase the readability of the chart by helping direct the eye from axis value to the value being charted. This is especially useful if you have a wide or tall chart. You can establish both major and minor gridlines. Generally, major gridlines are sufficient.

NOTE: Gridlines cannot be applied to pie charts.

  1. Click your chart

  2. Click TOOLBOXToolbox button
    The Formatting Palette appears.

  3. From the Formatting Palette, click CHART OPTIONS
    The Chart Options toolbar appears.

  4. From the Gridlines section,
    Click VERTICAL GRIDLINES FOR MAJOR UNITSVertical Gridlines for Major Units button
    OR
    Click HORIZONTAL GRIDLINES FOR MAJOR UNITSHorizontal Gridlines for Major Units button
    NOTE: The button acts as a toggle switch.

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