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Basic Excel Charting Techniques

Guest Author - Chris Curtis

Charts are a great way in which to present numerical data in a meaningful way but you may not have any experience in creating charts in Excel so you avoid it. Basic charts are pretty easy to do. Here I will show you some simple techniques to get yourself acclimated to creating charts.

The example used in this lesson is a comparison of a small business revenues, expenses and earnings over the past two years on a quarterly basis. It will illustrate an improving trend in the company’s operating performance.

I would suggest that you practice this exercise as you follow along with the article.

To create the chart, follow these simple steps:

• Launch the Excel program
• Enter the data as shown in the illustration below



• Once the data has been entered, select the range of data to include the row descriptors and the column headings. (range A4:D12) The row descriptors will define the quarters on the vertical axis (the category axis) and the column headings will define the column legend.
• Press F11 – the F11 key will create a column chart on a separate worksheet tab (as shown in the illustration).

Using the F11 key is the simplest way to create a columnar chart. Once the chart has been created, you can then manipulate the chart in the same way you would have been able to if you had created the chart using the Chart Wizard.

Let’s take a moment to interpret this columnar chart.



Notice along the category axis, you will see the row descriptors representing each of the 8 quarters of data being charted. Each quarter is represented by 3 columns. The legend on the right hand side of the graph provides the labels for each column with Blue being the revenue data, cranberry the expense data and yellow the profit data. Notice the scale on the vertical axis (Value Axis) ranging from zero to $500,000 and the scale bars at $50,000 increments. Visually you can now see how the data behaves with a rising trend in revenues, declining trend in expenses and improving profitability. The chart clearly visualize the positive trends in the data.

A couple of other observations that you should make are:
• The chart tool bar opens automatically when you create the chart
• As you hover your mouse pointer over the various parts of the chart, you will see a tool tip labeling the chart object to which you are pointing. For example, if you point at the legend on the right side of the chart, a tool tip will appear with the word legend.

This technique provides a simple and easy methodology to create a quick, yet meaningful chart for interpretive visualization of data.
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Content copyright © 2014 by Chris Curtis. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Chris Curtis. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Laura Nunn for details.

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