Layouts For Column Charts
The layout of a chart can make a big difference in its legibility. Consider the two charts shown below. Both use the same data. The top chart contains two data series, one for each region. The bottom one uses six data series, one for each month. Which is better? There is no correct answer. If your goal is to make month-by-month comparisons, the top chart is a better choice. If you want to emphasize trends in each region, the bottom chart works better.
When you create a new chart, you start by selecting the data to be plotted. Unless you tell Excel otherwise, it makes some assumptions to determine how your data is plotted. If the number of rows in your selected range exceeds the number of columns, the program uses the columns for the data series (as in the top chart). If the number of columns in your range exceeds or equals the number of rows, then Excel uses the rows for the data series.
In Step 2 of Excel's Chart Wizard dialog box, you can specify how the data will be plotted. Choose either Rows or Columns for the "Series in" option (you'll be able to preview your choice). To change the way the data in an existing chart is plotted, select the chart by clicking it, then choose Chart, Source Data. In the Source Data dialog box, click the Data Range tab and then make your selection.
Excel has a long history, and it continues to evolve and change. Consequently, the tips provided here do not necessarily apply to all versions of Excel.
In particular, the user interface for Excel 2007 (and later), is vastly different from its predecessors. Therefore, the menu commands listed in older tips, will not correspond to the Excel 2007 (and later) user interface.
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