CPS100 • Introduction to Computers

Lakeland College • Japan Campus

Creating Charts


Cells in Excel are like a table in MS Word; they contain text information—numbers and words. The same information can be expressed as a chart. A chart shows in pictures what a table shows with words and numbers.

When you create a chart, you must remember that a chart must tell a story. It must send a clear message to the audience. Someone should be able to look at the chart and immediately understand what you are trying to say. Therefore, the information must be presented in a way that gives your message simply and clearly.

Take a look at the two charts below. They both show the exact same data. The first chart, however, in not well-presented. It does not organize the data in a way that makes a meaning clear. By looking at the first chart, can you understand anything?

Now look at the second chart. It shows the exact same information—but this time, it shows the data in a way that clearly shows you the point.

The message is clear: on average, men are taller than women.

In order to make the message clear, you must decide how the data is ordered, what type of chart is used, and how it is displayed.

Organizing the Table

The original data is not in that order:

Therefore, you should select the data as noted above. Be sure to select all the data; for example, if you select only the height and not the names, then the height will be sorted and the names will not—which will scramble (mix up) the names and heights. You do not need to select the top row with the label ("Height (cm)").

Once you have selected the data, go to the DATA menu and select "Sort...".

In the "Sort" dialog box, select the column you wish to sort by (in this case, "Height (cm)"), and the direction you wish to sort—either ascending (a, b, c,...) or descending (z, y, x,...).

NOTE: If you select the whole table including the headers at the very top, you should make sure that the small check-box at the top right is checked. If you did not select the headers, then make sure the box is unchecked.

Your finished table should look like this:

Before you make your chart, you should decide what order your data should be in. In the example we are using (people's height), you first think about what message you are trying to send, and then decide what order best sends that message. In this case, it is best to arrange the data by height, shortest to tallest.

Making the Chart

Previous versions of Excel used a "Chart Wizard," which took you through four steps. Excel 2007 has just one step, and then you can modify the chart after it has been made. Here's how to make it:

First, select the whole chart, including the top header (in this case, "Height"). Then, look at the "Insert" tab:

See the "Charts" area? Click on "Column." You will see these choices:

In this case, just select the first choice in the "3-D Column" section. You will see an inline chart appear, lke this:

That's it! Now you can modify it however you like. Look at the Ribbon: you will see three different Chart tabs:

With these controls, you can change the appearance and function of the chart in a variety of ways. For example, to change the basic appearance, go to the "Design" tab, and in the "Chart Styles" section, choose a different color scheme.

I chose the plain red.

There are other ways to change the chart as well. For example, we can change the scale of the axes, so the differences between each data point are more clear. Just right-click on the left axis:

Choose "Format Axis" at the bottom, to get this dialog box:

Change the Minimum value to 120 instead of zero. That will change the chart in this way:

You can see the differences between each column much more easily now.

Still, the chart doesn't tell the complete story yet. Let's change the color of some of the columns. First, left-click once on one of the column bars in the chart:

Notice the little resize handles at each end of each column. Now, left click once on one of the columns—in this case, Bob's column:

Note that now only Bob's column is selected. Now, right-click on that column:

Choose "Format Data Point..." at the bottom:

Here, you can choose any style you want. I chose a simple blue, and got this:

To change all the other men's colors, just click on the next one and do a CONTROL-Y ("Repeat") shortcut, and they will turn blue one by one.

I then made some other changes, and came out with this:

Here, you can see the "message" of the chart clearly: men are usually taller than women.

You can see that I made lots of other changes as well. Usually, you just right-click on whatever you want to change, choose the correct option from the pop-up menu, and make your changes. You can also effectively use the Ribbon tabs to make easy changes.

After you are through, you can select the whole chart, copy it, then go to PowerPoint or Word, and then paste—and your chart is in that document! You can even keep changing the chart and the data after you pasted it.

Now you know how to create charts in Excel.

There is a lot more in that program, and much of it you can learn by exploring and trying things out. Go ahead and give it a try!

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