Charts in MS Excel are of great demand in the professional arena these days. Learning their basics only takes you one step ahead in this highly-competitive job market.
As someone who worked in the HR department for a few years now, I’ve interviewed many applicants who claim to have sound knowledge on Excel but often fail to even create the specific chart for the provided data.
In the fields of data analysis & demonstration to the most basic presentations, knowing about types of charts in Excel is very appreciated and even demanded to some extent.
There aren’t many good tutorials online that actually teach people the very basics of each chart, what they signify and what sort of data work with each of them the best.
With this comes my obligation that I’m fulfilling here with the most basic breakdowns of the most major charts in Excel, with examples and samples that can be downloaded – free of any cost.
What Are Excel Charts?
Charts in Excel are graphical ways of presenting the analyzed data. Using the wide variety of charts that are specialized in different data types, numerical data can be presented in the most comprehensive way very easily.
Charts can show growth, decline, comparison, overall situation and whatnot with only a couple of generated images. A great deal of understanding is required of how each of the charts presents their data to be able to pick the precise chart for that data.
For instance, the growth over time of a company won’t be visible in a pie chart but it will project effectively with a column or line chart with points. Similarly, contributions to a joint venture will be better understood with a pie chart than with most other charts.
Thus, having chart knowledge at the tip of your fingers should render you the most capable Excel user and increase your demand in the job market.
How To Insert A Chart In Excel?
Inserting an Excel chart is very simple. As there are different versions of MS Office with a transition of interfaces over the years, the newer ones give access to the charts section more conveniently since it’s frequently used.
To have your chart placed into the sheets, follow the steps below:
Place your data into the Excel sheet and have the portion that you want to create a chart out of selected;
Having selected, go to the Insert tab on top and click it;
Once there, find the Charts section where you’ll be presented with all the charts variety offered by MS Excel;
There, click your preferred chart for the task and see your visual data formulated instantly!
With these easy steps, you’ll be able to place your very own chart and get going with Excel beyond that.
Types Of Charts In Excel
Since there can be innumerable charts in Excel that can be made with different combinations or external plugins, I’m covering the most important and core ones that can’t be done without.
Having a sound knowledge about these selected charts won’t get your skills questioned and your work will take an upward trajectory from this point onward.
When you’re dealing with data that changes over time and want to place similar data sets to present a comparative growth or reduction, the column chart should be your preferred chart for the most effective demonstration.
There are four major criteria of column charts in Excel, which you can choose from based on the data you’re dealing with and your aesthetic preferences.
Clustered columns are the most basic sets of column charts that work better for growth or reduction visualizations.
Stacked columns aren’t much different than clustered columns if they are used with one data set. But for more than one set of data, stacked columns visualize the discrepancy within one column which saves space and makes the demonstration more comprehending.
100% Stacked Column
This column type basically stretches the stacked column into a 100% scale so that the data variance becomes more visible.
3-D column is basically the clustered column just presented in 3-D format. It adds depth to the data and certain 3-D columns allow for more bars to be presented in the same setup with a broader area of data set.
Line charts are basically connected lines within the graph area that work the same way as bar charts but with a higher intensity at showing discrepancy. It looks more like a heartbeat lines at different data points which allows for an understanding of ups and downs of the data.
The line is the most basic of the four from the series. Data points can be turned on to see precisely the value of concern.
Stacked line is better for a comparative understanding between data sets where one line can function as the baseline while the rest in the same graph area sitting side by side.
100% Stacked Line
The 100% stacked line chart basically takes one set of data to be the standard one at maximum capacity and shows the rest of the data sets how far away they are from the ideal. Variance data are generally demonstrated using similar types of charts in Excel.
3-D line is the aesthetic upgrade to the regular line with no change in data presentation.
The pie chart retains such a name from the shape of the chart – it looks like a pie. It deals with a 100% area that shows how all the sets stack up against each other in percentage.
This is the most basic format of pie charts. Things like company shares or examination marks consistency are displayed using this chart.
3-D pie is nothing more than an embossed variant of the regular pie. It looks good and has a depth to the flat pie chart.
Pie of Pie
While dealing with a large variety of data or there’s a demand to isolate a couple of information from the set to highlight them alongside the rest of the data, the pie of pie chart comes in handy in such regard.
Bar of Pie
Bar of pie is similar to pie of pie, but instead of showing a second pie, it presents a 100% stacked bar with the same data set.
Doughnut chart resembles pie chart and it too is named this way due to the shape. While pie charts consume the entire circle area, the doughnut chart is more precise and pushes the data area to the margin for a finer understanding.
Some data sets can’t be comprehended better with column charts and this is where bar charts come in. The major difference is that bar charts contain a hierarchy between data so that a ranking can be made in a descending or ascending order.
Clustered bar chart is the most basic one in this category that shows a competitive picture of data for a straightforward understanding.
When you’ll take more than one data set and place them within the bar chart category for a comparison of their own, stacked bar charts should be your mode of action. It can show growth of the same company over a period of time while comparing this information with other data at the same time.
The 100% stacked bar chart doesn’t compare the individual data within themselves, rather it compares between the discrepancies based on the fluctuation. For instance, it won’t rank companies against who sells the most, rather based on how the revenue stacks against the sale value for each company.
Area charts are basically a mixture of column chart and line chart. It shows progress within an area and provides a more visually appealing way of tracking changes.
Area is the basic form of such a chart type. It shows growth or reduction over a period of time and allows the viewers to assume the data in between two points more accurately.
Stacked area compares multiple sets of data in the same way as area chart does. Different color codes highlight each area and shows their significant differences at a quick glance.
100% Stacked Area
The 100% stacked area chart scales up the data to a complete 100% and presents a fluctuating demonstration from the maximum capacity. This is ideal for assessing lacking and analyzing between variance data sets of a budget or something similar.
XY (Scatter) is one of the most unique types of chart that works with correlated data on two axes confined within the same constant data.
Scatter data can be used to measure two variable data sets against a similar ground. For example, if time is to be measured against distance, one axis can measure the time it takes on bike and the other the time it takes on car and place all the data within the graph area.
By taking a look at each data point, it provides a direct understanding of how each of the axes are benefiting or losing out.
Scatter with Smooth Lines
Scatter with smooth lines is basically scatter data that’s connected by a non-linear line. This line helps to show the actual progress by hypothesizing the supposed position in-between the data points.
Scatter with Straight Lines
The scatter with straight lines doesn’t assume the hypothesized position in-between, rather it takes a stern approach of transition from one data point to the next.
Stock charts are specialized visualizers for the stock market and their relevant data. Any other financial data can be placed within the stock chart but it must resemble nature to find the maximum benefit.
This type of stock chart presents with a time frame, company name and the price differences in the market. The high data indicates the peak of that stock’s price, low data tells the lowest point – and these two make the line within the value range.
The point placed within that line is the close price, meaning the last price of that stock during the market closing. Thus, this one chart alone can provide the observers with a wide variety of data without having to rummage through tons of numbers.
This chart is almost identical to the high-low-close chart. The key difference is that it contains the market opening price as well, thus instead of a close value point on the high-low line, there’s an open-close area on it.
This chart too is based on the high-low-close model and it’s merged with a sales volume column chart. The column data are placed on one side and the high-low-close values are placed on the other.
In one place, the volume-open-high-low-close chart is a remarkable way to assess the financial or stock market within a very short duration. It displays every necessary information to the stock market and it merges the volume column concept with the open-high-low-close chart.
Bubble chart is very similar to the basic XY (scatter) chart but the data points are placed in the shape of a bubble. What it does is, it shows the surrounding plausible data range should there be any fluctuation. Types of data that aren’t precise should endorse bubble charts instead of scatter.
Surface charts aren’t like regular charts, in terms that they don’t show individual data or compare between data sets, rather they accumulate different data with various information in an overall picture.
Surface charts are color coded and taking a look at those colored area variations provide a comprehensive demonstration for everyone very easily.
3-D surface places that surface map on a three dimensional place for the audience to understand the depth in the Z axis alongside the other two axes.
Wireframe 3-D Surface
This chart shows the same map as the 3-D surface, but in wireframe mode. It means, the surface won’t be filled with colors, rather just the outlines will be highlighted for each data.
Contour offers a better visual for the 3-D surface map. Instead of placing it in a 3-D graph, contour gives an overhead shot so that the entire surface can be properly understood. This is my preferred surface chart as it’s a complete and comprehensive representation of the data.
Wireframe contour is basically the mesh edition of the basic contour map. It only shows colored outlines with no fill color in the middle.
Radar maps are good for showing multiple data sets containing more than one area of concern that are aligned in all the sets. Each of the criteria becomes one corner point of the shape starting from a triangle and shows individual traits with how they stack against each other.
The basic radar chart can be seen in skill, data, grade etc. comparison. For each speciality, there are two or more data sets with unique colors that show a comparative demonstration. As a whole, the radar chart generates a comparative analysis in multiple areas at one go.
Filled radar is basically regular radar with the geometric shape filled with a color.
Treemap chart is a unique way of presenting data with subsets as a visual percentage queue. Where pie charts have their certain limitations, treemap charts succeed in going beyond that and presenting data sets and subsets side by side for an immediate, ocular understanding.
When there are many sets and subsets of data present at your hand and you’re looking for a way to present them altogether in one place, the sunburst chart is your easy escape. It can hold data sets like yearly expenses along with monthly subsets, as far as up to weekly numbers for different departments of selected companies.
Histogram & Pareto Chart
These two charts oddly resemble the column chart. The only difference is that, column chart sits within a constant value area where the histogram and pareto chart are shown with a varying value line with its rise & fall.
This chart is basically presented in an interval scale with columns sitting side by side, giving insight to varying data.
The Pareto chart looks similar to the histogram, with the difference in the value line that cuts across the graph area to highlight the discrepancy, expected value or target line.
Box & Whisker Chart
Box & Whisker chart shows a handful of things in a very brief area. With specific data objects that have recurrent values over different dimensions, and all of them need to be placed within one confinement, this chart is the way to go.
Under each category, the value range draws bars based on variance and they are color coded on the basis of different dimensions. For instance, the mains in the examples draws data from each year and creates the bar with coded color.
Waterfall charts might seem like bar charts, but it’s actually a budget and expense visualizer. It can also be interpreted with income and expenses, negative data represents the latter and positive the former.
Funnel charts demonstrate the funneling effect – from a wide range of data, deduction in each step to the final outcome at the end. It can be made into a pyramid as well, depending on the type of data that you’re working on.
Combo charts are some of the most handy tools in MS Excel. These charts merge between different chart types to make the data visualization into something more effective, precise and efficient.
Line combo chart refers to the combination of column chart and line chart. With more than one data set, a column chart can demonstrate one aspect of it with the lines right over the column, adding more value. Revenue and sales comparison is the prime example of such charts.
Line on Secondary Axis
While the line combo holds both the bars and lines under the same data range, the line on the secondary axis actually presents different data ranges for the columns and the line. Such disparity allows the lines to show more fluctuation at full scale while it remains minimal on the line combo.
Stacked area refers to the merger of column charts along with the area chart. The area data are presented as the underlying surface with the columns foregrounding the chart. It can function the same way as a line on the secondary axis but with a higher degree of visual intensity.
Custom combinations allow for mergers between different types of charts, mostly two are merged together and in some cases, more than two. Depending on the data, data type, nature of presentation and similar conditions, the combinations are selected by data analysts.
With a brief understanding of the major types of charts in Excel, you’ll take a step towards the broad area of data demonstration that you can master in a similar fashion.
How To Change Between Charts?
At certain times, we commit to one chart type with our available data and come to the conclusion that this isn’t highlighting the key aspects in the intended way. That calls for an alteration from one chart design to another, a more suitable one.
In such a case, you don’t need to re-create the next chart from scratch, rather change its type very easily. It can be done in a couple of steps:
- Have the initial chart selected, then go to the Design tab. There, click Change Chart Type.
- From the dropdown, pick your preferred chart type and select it, your existing chart will transform into the new one in a matter of seconds!
Benefits Of Charts
There are uncountable benefits of Excel charts and thus learning different types of charts has become very relevant in many job areas in the current market. The major benefits of charts are highlighted below:
- You can translate your data into graphical objects that will communicate more easily with the recipients
- While a large chunk of numbers may seem incomprehensive, charts make them more meaningful by looking at the graphic outcome
- Understanding data has never been easier
- Comparing between data is a challenging task which is made straightforward using charts
- Drawing data from past and present, a chart can predict the future of a company
- Charts display anomaly in data which highlights the discrepancy of company’s integrity
Like these, there are many other benefits that different types of charts in Excel can point out using existing data.
Limitations Of Charts
The downsides aren’t always strictly limited to the charts, rather on the way we perceive charts and the data we’re working with. Knowing the limitations thus will help you in picking out the precise type of charts to get the best out of your demonstrations.
- As mentioned, picking the wrong chart will limit the understanding of the actual data
- Little knowledge on chart types will lead users to mis-analyzing the data
- Chart-centric Excel data can manipulate the attendees into complying with the presenter’s point of view if it’s well-prepared
As mentioned, these aren’t really Excel’s charts’ limitations and they can be overcomed with a deep knowledge about data visualization.
Now that you’ve taken the first step into the types of charts in Excel, you are acquainted with the very basics of not only charts, but also with MS Excel as a whole.
You have no idea how much you can contribute and add value to a project with a great understanding of charts and knowing which sort of data or the nature of the project demands the type of chart.
It is truly undermined that the technical knowledge isn’t enough for charts, you have to add your own thinking into it, your creative vision can turn a regular chart into something outstanding in a matter of seconds.
Our site will provide you with everything you need to learn about charts and other Excel features, but you must actively keep on applying them in order to bring the best out of it.
Only then, you will excel at your job sector and be revered as the king of Excel.
What are the 16 types of chart in Excel? ›
- Bar Graph. ...
- Column Chart. ...
- Line Graph. ...
- Dual Axis Chart. ...
- Area Chart. ...
- Stacked Bar Chart. ...
- Mekko Chart. ...
- Pie Chart.
Types of Charts
The four most common are probably line graphs, bar graphs and histograms, pie charts, and Cartesian graphs. They are generally used for, and are best for, quite different things. You would use: Bar graphs to show numbers that are independent of each other.
Types of Charts in Excel | 8 Types of Excel Charts You Must Know!What are the 11 data formats in Excel? ›
- General. General is a number format selected as the default by excel for any number you type into the spreadsheet. ...
- Number. Number Format is exclusively used when you are working with numbers. ...
- Currency. ...
- Accounting. ...
- Date. ...
- Time. ...
- Percentage. ...
Bar charts are good for comparisons, while line charts work better for trends. Scatter plot charts are good for relationships and distributions, but pie charts should be used only for simple compositions — never for comparisons or distributions.