Microsoft Excel

Chart Customization

Excel 2007 makes creating a basic chart easier than ever. Select your data, choose a chart type, and you’re finished. You may take a few extra seconds and select one of the pre-built Chart Layouts, and maybe even select one of the Chart Styles. But if your goal is to create the most effective chart possible, you probably want to take advantage of the additional customization techniques available in Excel.

Customizing a chart involves changing its appearance, as well as possibly adding new elements to it. These changes can be purely cosmetic (such as changing colors modifying line widths, or adding a shadow) or quite substantial (such as changing the axis scales or adding a second Value Axis). Chart elements that you might add include such features as a data table, a trend line, or error bars.

Charts with Multiple Series of Numbers

A series is the sequence of numbers that you plot on a graph. In the simple chart example, there's one series of numbers, which represents the sales figures for a company's different regions. Of course, a real chart usually adds extra layers of detail. You may want to compare the sales figures from several different years. In this case, you'd add a separate column to your worksheet data for each year. Then you'd add each column to your chart as a separate series.

It doesn't take any extra expertise to create a chart that uses multiple seriesyou just select the right range of cells and pick a chart option from the ribbon, just as you would for a chart that has a single series. Different types of charts handle multiple series in different ways. The clustered column chart creates a separate bar for each value in a row. A line chart, on the other hand, shows a separate line for each series.

You can add multiple series to an existing chart without starting over from scratch. First, select the chart so that the linked data becomes highlighted. Then, click the rightmost edge, and drag it to the right to expand the range so that it includes the new columns, which you've already added to your worksheet.