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How to Customize Graphs in PowerPoint

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  • 0:02 Charts & Graphs
  • 0:43 Terminology
  • 1:46 Quick Review
  • 2:35 Changing the Data
  • 8:06 Changing Color & Font
  • 9:14 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.

This lesson will review how to modify charts in PowerPoint. We will go over how to change the data and make cosmetic changes, such as those to font, font color and font size.

PowerPoint Charts and Graphs

Making changes to text on a slide requires clicking in the box, removing, adding or editing existing text, and you are good to go. Need a different image? Delete the image you don't want, click on Insert, select Pictures and select a new one - fairly simple and frequently done. However, what about a bit more complex edits, such as making changes to the data in a PowerPoint chart or graph?

In this lesson, you will learn how to change the data in a chart or graph and how to change the look by using different colors, fonts, font sizes and styles.

Chart or Graph

But before we get too far, I want to discuss the difference between a chart and a graph. Although many times the two terms are used interchangeably, there is somewhat of a difference. In PowerPoint specifically, a graph is, technically, a type of chart. A chart is a visual representation of facts and figures. Charts are primarily used to provide data comparisons, such as comparing the revenue results between several stores for the year.

Graphs tend to show trends. Graphs are typically lines on a chart that connect from one point to another, and in PowerPoint, this type is appropriately called a 'line' chart. For example, you could create a chart, select 'line' as the type (graph), then show the trend in weather for a specific city over the last six months.

We will use the term 'chart' throughout this lesson. However, the steps and demonstrations apply to any type of chart, such as a line, pie, column or bar chart.

Quick Review

We need a sample chart for our lesson, so let's briefly review how to create a chart on a slide. Then, we will use this chart to learn how to apply changes to the data, style, color and font. We will create a line chart that will show the trend in unemployment for the state of Minnesota over the last six months.

  1. Go to the Insert menu on the ribbon
  2. Look in the Illustrations grouping of commands
  3. Click on the Charts command
  4. For our example, we'll choose Line chart
  5. PowerPoint opens a spreadsheet to enter the data
  6. When we're finished, we'll close the spreadsheet and click off the chart

Perfect. Now that we have our line chart, let's continue with changing the data.

Changing the Data

There are two common sets of information you may want to change in a chart. The first set of information is the Series and Categories. The second set is the Numerical Data. In this example, we will use the short-cut icons to the right of the chart. However, these same commands are available in the ribbon, under the Chart Tools>Design menu, using the Edit Data command.

Select the chart and notice the three short-cut icons. The first icon, Chart Elements, lets you add and remove elements of the chart, such as the legend. The second icon, Chart Styles, gives you the option to change the chart styles and colors. The third icon, Chart Filters, opens a window that lets you hide a series or category on your chart, or hide the series and/or category titles.

In the bottom, right-hand corner of the dialogue box, there is a link called Select Data. Clicking on the link will open two dialogue boxes: the chart spreadsheet and the Select Data Source options window. Now, all data changes can be done using these two windows.

We will start with the Select Data Source window. It's a bit intimidating but let's review each element.

Before you panic, here's a tip: Many of the changes you make in this window can also be made using the spreadsheet, which I find is much easier. Just remember that there are really two ways to modify chart data.

Now, back to the elements of the Select Data Source window.

  • Chart data range: You can change the complete range of the chart by selecting a new set of cells or typing in the range addresses. In our example, the input is '=Sheet1!$A$1:$B$7.' This is just telling us that the chart is pulling data from Sheet 1 and is using all the information entered from cell A1 to B7.
  • Next is Switch Row/Column: This button will switch the row and column headings back and forth. In other words, you can switch the series and the categories.
  • Edit Series or Category: You can change where on the spreadsheet the chart pulls the labels or name of the series and/or category. You can also change the cell range for series and category data.
  • Add or Remove: These buttons will let you add another series to your chart or delete a series.
  • Order, Up or Down: Modify the order of the series in the chart by clicking the series name and then clicking the Move Up or the Move Down button until the data series appears in the desired position in the chart.

I want to focus on using the spreadsheet. As I said earlier, you will likely find the spreadsheet easier to use, and you will find that the majority of the changes you will need to make can be done using the spreadsheet.

First, notice that if you close the Select Data Source window, the spreadsheet remains open. The spreadsheet has four different, colored boxes around different sets of data. Each color represents a different element of the chart: the category, the series, the numbers and the selected cell.

To change the numerical data, click inside a cell and type in the new data. As you type in new numbers, the chart will update automatically. When you are done, close the window and step off the chart by clicking on the white space of the slide. The same steps apply to the categories and series.

But let's take it one step further. Imagine you just found out that you need to add the stats for California. Again, you can go back to the spreadsheet. Add a new Series for California, add your numbers for each month, and you're all set.

So let's go one more step further. Sometimes, you may want to change what the chart displays but not the spreadsheet. Confused? Let me explain.

Let's say you are giving a presentation to an audience that only needs to see the last three months. Next week, you are giving the same presentation to an audience that will need to see the last six months. You could create two different charts on two different slides or even create two separate presentations. But I'm all about efficiency! What about making a small change to the existing chart, have it show only the last three months, then make the change again to show the last six months? Here's how it works.

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