The Secrets behind Excel Charts

The Secrets behind Excel Charts

What Are Charts in Excel?

Excel charts and graphs elevate your data and provide an easy-to-understand visualization of numeric values. Professionals in finance, consulting and other industries often use charts and graphs in presentations. They give management, client, or team members a quick snapshot into progress or results.

It’s easy to create charts and graphs in Excel. Since you can store your data directly in an Excel Workbook, you don’t have to import data from another program.

What are the Excel Chart Types?

Excel offers a large library of chart and graph types to help visually present your data. Multiple chart types might “work” for a given data set. However, it’s important to select a chart type that best fits with the story you want the data to tell.

In Excel 2016, there are five main categories of charts or graphs:

  1. Column Charts: These are some of the most commonly used charts. We use them to compare the information when you have multiple categories of one variable. For example, we can compare multiple products or genres.
  2. Bar Charts: The main difference between bar charts and column charts is the position. The bars are horizontal instead of vertical. Besides, you can often use bar charts interchangeably with column charts. Although some prefer column charts when working with negative values. It is easier to visualize negatives vertically, on a y-axis.
  3. Pie Charts: Use pie charts to compare percentages of a whole (“whole” is the total of the values in your data). Each value represents a piece of the pie so that you can identify the proportions.
  4. Line Charts:  A line chart is most useful for showing trends over time, rather than static data points. The lines connect each data point to see how the value(s) increased or decreased over a period of time.
  5. Scatter Charts: They are similar to line graphs to show changes in variables over time. Moreover, the scatter charts are used specifically to show how one variable affects another. This is also called correlation. Bubble charts, a popular chart type, are categorized under scatter.

How to work with Excel Charts?

To insert the chart in Excel, start with the shortcut Alt N to access the “Insert” tab on the Ribbon.

From here, you can choose the chart type you’d like to use.

Let’s choose “Recommended Charts” for our example by clicking relative letter shown on the Ribbon, letter “R”.

That will open a list of recommended charts for us as shown on the picture below.

For “Pie Charts” click the relative letter shown on the Ribbon, letter “Q”.

From here you can use arrows to navigate to the chart you’d like to use.

What are the top 3 Excel Charts and Graph Best Practices?

Below are the top three best practices to make your chart or graph as clear and useful as possible:

  1. Sort Data Prior to Creating the Chart: People often forget to sort data or remove duplicates before creating the chart, which makes the visual unintuitive and can result in errors.
  2. Choose Appropriate Chart Types: Consider your audience, the topic, and the main point of your chart when selecting a theme. Choose the theme that best fits your purpose and the story you’d like to tell through visualization of your data.
  3. Make It Clean: Remove any unnecessary information so your audience can focus on the point you’re trying to get across.


Excel charts provide an easy-to-understand visualization of numeric values, which is used widely by professionals in finance, consulting, and other industries.

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