Drawing graphs

Creating the big picture

Another useful feature of Microsoft Excel is the ability to graph ordinary numbers or the numerical results of formulas into a variety of designs. This helps you to see the big picture behind your formulas and numbers and so make decision-making easier depending on what the numbers mean to you.

The graphs available in Microsoft Excel are quite extensive and come in a variety of designs including pie charts, bar graphs, line graphs and much more. The appearance of the graphs can be in colour or black and white, with 3D effects or very simple graphs whichever takes your fancy.

How do I create a graph?

Let us suppose we want to graph the following data in four cells:

To graph these numbers and what they represent, use your mouse to highlight the four cells like so,

Click the graphing tool.

The Chart Wizard window will appear. Choose a graph (or chart) type. In this example, we will select a pie chart as highlighted below:

In the chart sub-type, you have further choices as to how you would like the chart to appear. You can choose a standard front-on pie chart, a 3D version of a pie chart, a pie chart with segments separated from each other and so on. We will keep it simple so let us stick to the one selected by Excel (i.e. a standard front-on pie chart).

Click the Next button to move to Step 2.

In Step 2 of the graphing process, you are shown a snapshot of how the pie chart will look. Below this picture is information on the cells you have selected in a format Microsoft Excel understands. This is called the data range. And below this is the choice of selecting numerical data along a row or down a column. Because the numbers in our example goes down a column, we will stay with the recommendation provided by Excel (i.e. where "columns" has been highlighted).

Click the Next button to move to Step 3.

In Step 3 of the graphing process, you have a reasonable amount of control in whether you want to show a legend and where to place it as well as inserting a chart title and other information. Click on the Titles, Legend and Data Labels tabs to gain access to all this information.

Click the Next button to move to Step 4.

In the fourth and final step of the graphing process, you have a choice of placing the graph on top of the current spreadsheet called an object, or place the graph on a separate spreadsheet within the same Excel file.

Make your choice and click the Finish button.

How can I select the colours for my graph?

If say you want to change the colour of one of the pie segments in the above example, click the segment until it looks like the following:

The Format menu command will change to give you the option to select different colours for your specific part of the graph.

The window that allows you to make those changes should look like the following: