Formatting Charts (PC)

Moving Charts with the Mouse

Scroll the mouse over the chart (it does not have to be selected already) and when the cursor looks like a black plus sign with arrows on the end of each line, click and hold down the mouse.  Move the chart to the new location. A black outline will appear marking to where the chart is being moved.


Changing the Chart Size

Select the chart by clicking on it. The border will be slightly highlighted with a gray border. Move your mouse over the triple dots on each corner and in the center of the borders. 


When the cursor looks like a double arrow then click and drag the borders of the chart to the preferred size. Solid lines will show the new size. 


Release the mouse and the chart will be the new size. You can also alter the size of the chart in the Format Chart Area dialogue box as described in the next section below. 


Formatting the Chart Area

The chart area refers to the area around the gridlines and the outer border. Scroll the mouse over an area that shows up as Chart Area (hold the mouse still for a second and the text will appear), then right click and select Format Chart Area. This will open the Format Chart Area dialogue box. 

Alternatively, you can reach this dialogue box by going to the Format tab or the Layout tab under Chart Tools and selecting Chart Area from the dropdown menu found at the top of the Current Selection group (far left of the Ribbon). Then select Format Selection

Or you could use the quickest way to open the dialogue box, which is to double click on the chart area. 


You can make many visual adjustments in Fill, Border Color, Border Styles, Shadow, Glow and Soft Edges, and 3-D Format. Be aware of the visual presentation appropriate for the discipline or your project. Some fields prefer clarity and simplicity, others may prefer something flashy or dynamic.

Under Size you can alter the size of the chart. You can also lock the aspect ratio, which will maintain the length to width ratio when the chart is resized, by clicking on the box next to Lock aspect ratio


Formatting the Series

Sometimes you want the data series to look different than the default used by Excel. To change the colors, shapes, and other features of the series, double click on the data series, or right click on the data series and select Format Data Series from the dropdown menu. Each point on the line (when it is a line graph) will be selected. When data lines are very close to each other, it can be difficult to isolate them to format them. One way to address that is by hovering your mouse pointer over a datapoint in your graph. A small yellow box will appear indicating which series the datapoint belongs to.


When you select a data series, each point on the line (when it is a line graph) will be selected. You’ll also see that the data that corresponds to the series will be outlined in blue. Furthermore, the selected data series will be listed at the top of the dropdown menu in the upper right corner of the formatting box that always appears when you right click in Excel.


You can also reach the Format Data Series dialogue box from the Layout tab or Format tab, both under Charts toolbar, by selecting the specific data series from the dropdown menu in the Current Selection group on the left side of the Ribbon and clicking Format Selection. 

Looking at the Format Data Series dialogue box, under Series Options, you have the option of a primary and secondary vertical axis. There are occasions where you might want two vertical axes, in which case you can decide which data series will be on the Primary Axis and which on the Secondary Axis by selecting the appropriate bubble. However, use this feature cautiously as it will make reading the graph much more difficult. It is completely unnecessary with the current data set, but you can see how selecting Secondary Axis automatically adds an additional vertical axis and makes the graph more complicated to read. 


You can change the Marker Type as well as the size under Marker Options. Be sure to select Built-in


You can also change the color of the Marker. Select Solid fill or experiment with the other options. 


If you change the color of the marker, you’ll probably want to change the Line Color and the Marker Line Color unless you don’t want them to match.

You can also alter the Line Style and the Marker Line Style. This is useful for changing the thickness of lines or for making dotted lines, both of which can help with visibility. I suggest experimenting with the options to find out what you like.


There are also other visual alterations you can make with Shadow, Glow and Soft Edges, and 3-D Format

To format other chart types, the process is the same, although some of the options will be different. 

For example with a pie chart you can see that there are no axes under Series Options (because a pie chart doesn’t have axes), but instead you can alter the slices.  Also, you’ll notice Border Color and Border Styles have replaced Marker Color, Line Color, Marker Line Color, etc.


Please note that a pie chart is completely inappropriate for this data. Not sure why? Visit the ERL


Inserting a Chart Title

In the Layout tab under Chart Tools (remember to click on the chart if you do not see the Chart Tools tabs) click on Chart Title in the Labels group.


You can choose to center the title over the plot area (Centered Overlay Title) or display it above the plot area (Above Chart). Which you choose may depend on standards in the discipline, requirements for the project, or what you think looks better.  Once you decide and click on your preferred option (the below example shows the overlay), type the chart title. You should notice 2 things in the example below:

1. A box on over the plot area says Chart Title. This is where the chart title will appear.
2. The typed title appears in the Formula bar.


Once you press ENTER the title will appear on the chart.

Back in the Labels group of the ribbon, None is an option in the dropdown menu in case you want to remove the chart title after adding it. (You can also click on the chart title border and press DELETE or BACKSPACE to remove the title.) Clicking on More Title Options opens the Format Chart Title dialogue box where you can format aspects of the chart title. This allows you to alter features of the chart title except for the font. 


Formatting the Chart Title

To alter the font, select the chart title (click on it once), and then click on the text to be able to edit the text. You can format the font using the standard font options under the Home tab in the Font group.  The text will not appear in the formula bar, but you can change it directly in the chart title box. 

To move the chart title, single click on the chart title box, and then move the cursor over one of the borders. When the cursor changes to a cross with arrows at each end, click the mouse and move the chart title to where you would like it to be. Blue dotted lines will mark the new location. When you release the mouse, the title will be moved.


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