Excel Charts & Graphs: Summarizing Data Visually

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  • 0:01 Visual Data
  • 0:50 Chart or Graph
  • 2:07 Chart Types
  • 3:04 Inserting a Chart
  • 4:42 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Karen Sorensen

Karen has a Bachelors in Communications. She has 25 years of experience in Information Systems, Adult Learning and Virtual Training.

Charts and graphs help to make information easier to understand. When you have a worksheet full of numbers, inserting a chart will help the viewers digest comparisons and trends. This lesson will introduce you to charts and graphs in Excel.

Visual Data

Likely, one of the most popular ways to look at data - and probably the easiest way to digest a bunch of numbers on a spreadsheet - is to use a chart or graph. Charts and graphs are used all the time, every day. Just watch the news or read a newspaper. You will see graphs showing crime rates, unemployment, gas prices and even who is winning in the poles. However, if you are anything like me when I first started using Excel, I literately cringed at the thought of creating one. Intimidating, to say the least.

This lesson will give you an overview of charts and graphs in Excel. You will also learn the difference between a chart and a graph. We will look at examples and review the many different types of charts Excel can display.

Chart or Graph

Not sure about you, but I always question whether to call it a chart or a graph. For Excel, the term is a chart. However, the selection of different chart types is plentiful and some people use the two terms interchangeably. One person will call it a chart, the other a graph. So, what's the difference?

Well, believe it or not, there is actually a difference between a chart and a graph. It depends on the data being displayed. Normally, a chart is used to show comparisons between more than one thing. For instance, you might want to show a chart that displays (visually) a comparison between the number of boys and girls at a school. Or how many sodas were sold compared to how many juice boxes were sold at the school cafeteria last month.

A graph looks and acts much like a chart but is used primarily to show trends. If we use the example of sodas versus juice boxes sold, we could create a graph the shows the totals over time, for instance, the last ten months. This would allow you to analyze the trend in sales of soda and juice boxes.

Chart Types

If you click on the Insert tab and look in the Chart menu, you will notice several commands for different types of charts. Let's quickly review each type.

  • Column
  • Bar
  • Radar
  • Line
  • Area
  • Combo
  • Pie
  • Scatter

Notice that each command is displayed with a visual icon that gives you an idea of what the chart looks like. In addition, as we hovered over each command, we received a description of the chart type. If you are not familiar with charts in Excel, I suggest you start with a column or bar chart. These are used more frequently than the others and are the easiest charts to create.

Chart examples

Inserting a Chart

Alright, let's move on to inserting a chart. To create a chart, it's really very simple. You select the data you want to display, click on one of the chart commands and choose a style.

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