A chart is a graphic representation of spreadsheet data that uses columns, points, pie wedges, and other forms to represent numbers from a select range. As the data in the spreadsheet changes, the chart also changes to reflect the new numbers. To get the most out of charts, you need to familiarize yourself with the basic chart elements.

Category Axis: The axis (usually the X axis) that contains the category groupings.

Chart Title: The title of the chart.

Data Marker: A symbol that represents a specific data value. The symbol used depends on the chart type.

Data Series: A collection of related data values. Normally, the marker for each value in a series has the same pattern.

Data Value: A single piece of data. Also called a data point.

Gridlines: Optional horizontal and vertical extensions of the axis tick marks. These make data values easier to read.

Legend: A guide that shows the colors, patterns, and symbols used by the markers for each data series.

Plot Area: The area bounded by the category and value axes. It contains the data points and gridlines.

Value Axis: The axis (usually the Y axis) that contains the data values.

Understanding Chart Types:

Excel offers 11 different types of charts, including column charts, bar charts, line charts, and pie charts. The chart type you use depends on the type of data and how you want to present that data visually. Although you must select a particular chart type when you first construct your chart, you can quickly and easily change to a different chart type later on if you need to.

Column: A chart that, like a bar chart, compares distinct items or shows single items at distinct intervals. However, a column chart is laid out with categories along the horizontal axis and values along the vertical axis.

Line: A chart that shows how a data series changes over time. The category (X) axis usually represents a progression of even increments (such as days or months), and the series points are plotted on the value (Y) axis. Pie: A chart that shows the proportion of the whole that is contributed by each value in a single data series. The whole is represented as a circle (the “pie”), and each value is displayed as a proportional “slice” of the circle.

Bar: A chart that compares distinct items or shows single items at distinct intervals. A bar chart is laid out with categories along the vertical axis and values along the horizontal axis.

Area: A chart that shows the relative contributions over time that each data series makes to the whole picture.

Scatter or X Y Chart: A chart that shows the relationship between numeric values in two different data series. It can also plot a series of data pairs in XY coordinates.

Stock: A chart that is designed to plot stock market prices, such as a stock’s daily high, low, and closing values.

Surface: A chart that analyzes two sets of data and determines the optimum combination of the two.

Doughnut: A chart that, like a pie chart, shows the proportion of the whole that is contributed by each value in a data series. The advantage of a doughnut chart is that you can plot multiple data series.

Bubble: A chart that is similar to an XY chart, except that there are three data series, and in the third series the individual plot points are displayed as bubbles (the larger the value, the larger the bubble).

Radar: A chart that makes comparisons within a data series and between data series relative to a center point. Each category is shown with a value axis extending from the center point.