Microsoft Excel

Chart Type Examples

After you select the data to use in a chart, the next step is to select the type of chart. The commands in the Insert > Charts group are all drop-down controls. Click a control, and you see icons that represent the subtypes for the chart type. For example, a Line chart has seven subtypes.

Column charts

Probably the most common chart type is column charts. Column charts actually come in several different variations (technically known as subtypes). The main difference between the basic column chart and these subtypes is how they deal with data tables that have multiple series.

A column chart displays each data point as a vertical column, the height of which corresponds to the value. The value scale is displayed on the vertical axis,which is usually on the left side of the chart. You can specify any number of data series, and the corresponding data points from each series can be stacked on top of each other. Typically, each data series is depicted in a different color or pattern.

Column charts are often used to compare discrete items, and they can depict the differences between items in a series or items across multiple series. Excel offers seven column-chart subtypes.

In order to learn about a chart subtype, you need to know its name. The name appears when you hover over the subtype thumbnail, either in the Insert Charts list or the Insert Chart dialog box.

Quick summary of column chart choices

Clustered Column
In a clustered column, each value's shown in its own separate column. To form a cluster, the columns are grouped together according to category.

Stacked Column
In a stacked column, each category has only one column. To create this column, Excel adds together the values from every series for each category. However, the column is subdivided (and color-coded), so you can see the contribution each series makes.

100% Stacked Column
The 100% stacked column is like a stacked column in that it uses a single bar for each category, and subdivides that bar to show the proportion from each series. The difference is that a stacked column always stretches to fill the full height of the chart. That means stacked columns are designed to focus exclusively on the percentage distribution of results, not the total numbers.

3-D Clustered Column, Stacked Column in 3-D, and 100% Stacked Column in 3-D
Excel's got a 3-D version for each of the three basic types of column charts, including clustered, stacked, and 100 percent stacked. The only difference between the 3-D versions and the plain-vanilla column charts is that the 3-D charts are drawn with a three-dimensional special effect, that's either cool or distracting, depending on your perspective.

3-D Column
While all the other 3-D column charts simply use a 3-D effect for added pizzazz, this true 3-D column chart actually uses the third dimension by placing each new series behind the previous series. That means if you have three series, you end up with three layers in your chart. Assuming the chart is tilted just right, you can see all these layers at once, although it's possible that some bars may become obscured, particularly if you have several series.

Along with the familiar column and three-dimensional column charts, Excel also provides a few more exotic versions that use cylinders, cones, and pyramids instead of ordinary rectangles. Other than their different shapes, these chart types work just like regular column charts. As with column and bar charts, you can specify how cylinder, cone, and pyramid charts should deal with multiple series. Your options include clustering, stacking, 100% stacking, and layering (true 3-D).