A Basic Guide to Charts and Graphs in Excel

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Excel Charts and Graphs are graphical tools for visualizing data. Using these tools as comparison and analysis methods to make sense of data, help you to have a good presentation of your consequence.

Creating an accurate relation between the chart and data is the point. In this article, we’re going to learn about operational Excel charts and the attached data.

First of all, you might ask yourself:

“What is the purpose of the collected data?”

1-   Display a portion of the data as a percentage.

2-     Compare and rate data as categories.

3-     Visualize data at specified intervals. 

4-     Study about the cumulative frequency of data for particular terms.

You should be well informed of all the charts to choose the best one suited to your needs.

Let’s open Excel and enter your data (as an example, we recorded the expense of the coffee we bought over a year).

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
23.618.616.117.94.24136.413.447.364.889.2811.5

You can enter the data from the sample data table above. Select the data and click the INSERT tab from the ribbon. There is a “charts” section with a subtypes menu.

as an example of recorded the expense of the coffee which is bought over a year.
the expense of the coffee example

Excel Chart Types:

PIE CHARTS

When you want to quantify data and visualize them as percentages, you can use the PIE chart.

In other words, Pie charts are generally used to display proportional. They are

good for showing data for around 6 or fewer categories.

Pie charts are classified into three main categories according to their appearance and application:

  1. 2-D Pie
  2. 3-D Pie
  3. Doughnut

2-D and 3-D Pie charts are similar in terms of usage.

Pie charts are classified into three main categories according to their appearance and application: 2-D Pie 3-D Pie Doughnut
2-d pie chart

Pie charts are classified into three main categories according to their appearance and application: 2-D Pie 3-D Pie Doughnut
3-d pie chart

2-D PIE (BAR OF PIE AND PIE OF PIE)

A simple way to organize more categories in a Pie chart is a built-in chart like a bar of Pie chart or Pie of Pie.

These types of charts detach the miniature slices from the primary Pie chart and show them in a secondary Pie or stacked bar chart.

A simple way to organize more categories in a Pie chart is a built-in chart like a bar of Pie chart or Pie of Pie.
pie of pie chart in excel

A simple way to organize more categories in a Pie chart is a built-in chart like a bar of Pie chart or Pie of Pie
bar of pie chart in excel

Please note that Pie charts are useful for showing data that are classified into nominal or ordinal categories. It works really well when you only have one set of data.

But what if we had more than one data series?

DOUGHNUT CHARTS

Doughnut chart is basically a Pie Chart except for a blank center, which makes it look like a doughnut. It works when you want to visually compare the contribution of different series to the whole.

By right-clicking on doughnut chart and selecting format data series you can:

  1. Spin the slices for various perspectives
  2. Focus on particular slices by pulling out slices of the doughnut chart
  3. Change the hole size of it, to magnify or detract the size of the slices
Doughnut chart is basically a Pie Chart except for a blank center, which makes it look like a doughnut
doughnut chart

COLUMN AND BAR CHARTS

Comparison of values across categories can be represented by the height of the rectangle in column or bar charts. They can be used to demonstrate both nominal and ordinal data.

It can also be used to compare data over a period of time (where data points are limited). 

The X-axis shows the different categories and the Y-Axis has a scale and indicates the units of measurement.

Bar chart: A chart with horizontal bars (2-D and 3-D). 

Column chart: A chart with vertical bars (2-D and 3-D).

Column chart: A chart with vertical bars (2-D and 3-D).
2-d column chart

Column chart: A chart with vertical bars (2-D and 3-D).
3-d column chart

There are 3 formats for each of Column and Bar charts:

1-    Standard

2-    Stacked

3-    Percentage

Each format presents the same data in various ways, but all of these formats have a similar method to create.

Stacked Column charts display the parts of each main component (for looking at changes) by using vertical bars. Therefore, this type of total is less significant than the comparative proportion.

Percentage Column charts are similar to Stacked Column charts, but because of the percentage values, all the bars are the same length.

Column charts and Bar charts can be used interchangeably. But if you have too many data classes or your data tags are long, as a suggestion, using Bar charts is better. 

Note: Column, Bar, Pie and Doughnut charts are best to compare multiple data points.

LINE CHARTS AND SCATTER CHARTS:

One of the most useful charts for displaying the change of data over time is undoubtedly the Line chart; it’s a continuous numeric data that is displayed by connected lines. It’s also known as a special case of the Scatter chart (in Scatter chart data is discrete).

Just like other charts, a Line chart has 2-D and 3-D variations. It’s also available in Standard, Stacked, and Percentage formats.

The chart types with Markers display the exact place of data points.

To plot a Stacked, there should be more than one data set. It displays the cumulative value at each point to avoid overlapping the lines.

One of the most useful charts for displaying the change of data over time is undoubtedly the Line chart.
2-d line chart
A Line chart has 2-D and 3-D variations. It’s also available in Standard, Stacked, and Percentage formats.
3-d line chart
The main target in scatter and line charts is showing the relevance among two values or a few data series.
scatter chart

These types of charts aren’t appropriate for visualization proportions. The main target is showing the relevance among two values or a few data series.

AREA CHARTS:

Area charts are another way to visualize data values (various data series) that change over time. In an Area chart, data is plotted on the x- and y-axis.

In other words, Area charts are essentially Line charts. The main difference between them is the filled area below the line (by colour). This area makes the matter more precise and clear.

Principally, it’s used when the trend requires to be displayed with the magnitude instead of single data values.

Area charts are another way to visualize data values (various data series) that change over time
2-d area chart
Area charts in Excel are grouped in Standard 2-D and 3-D types.
3-d area chart

Area charts in Excel are grouped in Standard 2-D and 3-D types; stacked and percentage formats.

It’s beneficial when there are various time series, and we want to expose the relation of each set to the whole data.

A stacked area chart is the deployment of a standard area chart. The goal is to show the progress of the data of different series on the same graphic.

If some part of the chart was hidden by another part, the Percentage format (100% Stacked Area Chart) could be helpful.

For example:

There is recorded the expense of the coffee we bought over a couple of years.

Recorded the expense of the coffee we bought over a couple of years
previous example over two years

Note 1: These three chart types (Line, Scatter and Area) work best for summarizing time-based data. Also, they are suited to show changes over time.

Note 2: Line and Area charts are the best chart diagrams for showing the progression of a process.

Data Visualization in Excel

Excel data analysis and visualization provides you with more insights about the data at hand. Visualizing data in each chart would be like:

There is recorded the expense of the coffee we bought over a couple of years. Visualizing data in Doughnut chart.
doughnut char example 2

There is recorded the expense of the coffee we bought over a couple of years. Visualizing data in stacked column chart
stacked column chart

There is recorded the expense of the coffee we bought over a couple of years. Visualizing data in stacked bar chart
stacked bar chart

There is recorded the expense of the coffee we bought over a couple of years. Visualizing data in stacked line cha
stacked line chart

There is recorded the expense of the coffee we bought over a couple of years. Visualizing data in stacked area chart
stacked area chart

RECOMMENDED CHARTS:

There is a really good option to know which chart is right for you.

Excel analyzes the data and offers you a suitable chart. So selecting data and clicking on the “Recommended Charts” tab assembles a list of charts that Excel recommends you to use. A common question about the Recommended charts is “How many chart types does Excel offer?”. The answer is, it actually depends on the data series.

Excel analyzes the data and offers you a suitable chart.
recommended charts in excel
Excel analyzes the data and offers you a suitable chart.
recommended charts dialogue box

DESIGN:

As soon as you click on your Chart, the CHART TOOLS tab, containing DESIGN and FORMAT tabs is presented on the ribbon.

Add Chart Element is the first button on the ribbon, at the upper left corner of the Charts.

The predefined layout elections could be presented by clicking on QUICK LAYOUT.

Changing colour, style, adding data series or switching row/column, etc. are other options to make your chart attractive.

Add Chart Element is the first button on the ribbon, at the upper left corner of the Charts
add chart elements in excel
The predefined layout elections could be presented by clicking on QUICK LAYOUT
quick layout option in excel
Changing color, style, add data series or switching row/column, etc. are other options to make your chart attractive
Stacked chart style

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