As you become more skilled with Excel, you’ll realize that entering numbers, organizing your layout, and formatting cells aren’t the most important parts of spreadsheet creation. Instead, the real work lies in analyzing your data—in other words, figuring out a way to tell the story that lies behind your numbers. Excel’s charting tools may be just what you need.
Charts depict data visually, so you can quickly spot overall trends. They’re a fabulous way to help you find the meaning hidden in large amounts of data. In Excel, for example, you can create many different types of charts, including pie charts that present polling results, line charts that plot rising or declining assets over time, and three-dimensional area charts that show relationships between environmental conditions in a scientific experiment.
Excel’s charting tools are enormously flexible: you can generate a simple chart with standard options in a couple of mouse clicks, or you can painstakingly customize every aspect of your chart’s appearance (including colors, scale, titles, and even 3-D perspective). This chapter takes the first approach, and explains how to generate straightforward charts, which you’ll examine in detail. In the next chapter, you’ll learn how to fine-tune your charts for maximum effect.
All charts are not created equal. Depending on the chart type you use, the scale you choose, and the data you include, your chart may suggest different conclusions. The true chart ...