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Chart Elements in PowerPoint 2013 for Windows

Learn about various chart elements and how to select and edit them in PowerPoint 2013.


Product/Version: Microsoft PowerPoint 2013
OS: Windows 7 and 8

Chart Elements
Selecting and Editing Chart Elements

Although a chart may seem like a single object at first glance, look closer and you will find that each chart comprises several individual elements that we call chart elements in PowerPoint. These chart elements include:

  • Series (and this could be one or more series with values)
  • Categories (again this can be one or more categories)
  • Axes (horizontal, vertical, and in some cases a third axis as well)
  • Plot area (the active chart area)
  • Legend
  • Chart Title
  • And many more

In this tutorial we'll learn about these individual PowerPoint chart elements and also how to select and edit them. Before starting, we are assuming you already have a chart inserted on your PowerPoint slide -- if not, refer to our Inserting Charts in PowerPoint 2013 tutorial and insert a chart on your slide.

Chart Elements

Different Chart types contain distinctly recognizable Chart Elements. In Figure 1 below, you can see a Column chart in PowerPoint 2013, which contains some of the most common Chart Elements found in almost all chart types:

Column Chart selected on the slide
Figure 1: Column Chart selected on the slide

Let us explore various Chart Elements:

  1. Chart Area: This is the area covered by entire chart which is populated by various other chart elements (colored in pale blue within Figure 1, above). Consider this as the layer of your chart that's placed right at the back.

  2. Plot Area: The area within the axes is knows as plot area (colored in pale yellow within Figure 1, above). The plot area includes the series, gridlines, etc. And the legend and titles are normally placed outside the plot area.

  3. Titles: There are two types of titles:

    • Chart Title, by default placed above the chart, and
    • Axes Titles, by default placed besides the axes.

  4. Axes: Most of the charts have two axes (colored in green within Figure 1, above):

    • The bottom, Horizontal Axis (X axis), and
    • The left, Vertical Axis (Y axis)

    Some charts may also have a Z axis. Learn more about PowerPoint's chart axes.

  5. Gridlines: Most of the time, you may see horizontal gridlines but vertical gridlines are also available as shown in Figure 1 above, where they have been colored in red. Both of them can be formatted as required.

  6. Series: Every column of data within the data sheet that's shown as a component of the chart is known as series. In Figure 1 above, there are three Series named Bananas, Apples, and Grapes.

  7. Categories: A set of series can be represented as a category. The chart in Figure 1, above contains four Categories named Year 2010, Year 2011, Year 2012, and Year 2013.

  8. Data Labels: These are the individual figures that identify each series. The font and placement for these can be formatted. In Figure 1 above, they are placed on top of the Series.

  9. Legends: This is a box placed normally outside the plot area which provides captions (and/or color coding) to the series, and helps identifying the series by their colors. Legends are automatically created with the chart itself, although you can opt to remove the legend. In Figure 1 above, you can see them placed at the bottom of the chart.

  10. Data Table: This is an optional chart element which displays the data values in the form of a table right below the chart. Learn more about Data Table in our Chart Data Table in PowerPoint 2013 for Windows.

  11. Datasheet mode: Getting into datasheet mode in PowerPoint 2013 translates to launching a Data Sheet with your data available to edit, add, remove, etc. This Data Sheet contains the values based on which the chart is created.


Selecting and Editing Chart Elements

Follow these steps to learn how to select individual chart elements and edit them in PowerPoint 2013:

  1. Select the chart to bring up the Chart Tools Design and Format tabs on the Ribbon, as shown in Figure 2.

    Chart selected on the slide
    Figure 2: Chart selected on the slide

  2. Now, select the Chart Tools Format tab of the Ribbon (highlighted in red within Figure 3).

    Chart Tools Format tab

    Figure 3: Chart Tools Format tab

  3. Within the Current Selection group (which is towards the extreme left on the Ribbon), you'll find a box showing the selected chart element, as you can see highlighted in blue within Figure 3, above -- click here to bring up a drop-down list as shown in Figure 4. This list contains all chart elements enabled in the active chart. Click on an individual element in this list to select that element within the actual chart. In Figure 4 you can see that the Series named 'Bananas' is being selected.

    Chart elements within the drop-down list
    Figure 4: Chart elements within the drop-down list

    Note: Figure 4 displays chart elements for a typical column chart -- if your chart type is different, you will see different chart elements.

    Tip: To easily select any individual chart element such as the Plot Area, Series, Legend, etc you can just click on it. But, if you have many chart elements close to each other, and sometime overlapping each other, it's easier to use the selection process explained above.

  4. After selecting any element in the Current Selection drop-down list, click the Format Selection button (highlighted in green within Figure 3, above) right below the same drop-down list. Since we have selected one of the Data Series in the drop-down list (see Figure 4, above), clicking the Format Selection button will bring up the Format Data Series Task Pane as shown in Figure 5 (highlighted in red).

    Format Data Series Task Pane
    Figure 5: Format Data Series Task Pane

  5. Format the selected Chart Element as required. You can also select Fill and Effects tabs (highlighted in blue within Figure 5, above) to access various fill and effect options.

  6. Once done, close the Format Data Series Task Pane and save your presentation.


See Also:

Chart Elements in PowerPoint 2011 for Mac
Chart Elements in PowerPoint 2010 for Windows
Chart Elements in PowerPoint 2007 for Windows
Chart Objects in PowerPoint 2002 and 2003 for Windows


PowerPoint Keyboard Shortcuts PowerPoint Keyboard Shortcuts and Sequences:
PowerPoint 2013, 2011, 2010, 2007 and 2003

Have your ever used keyboard shortcuts and sequences in PowerPoint? Or are you a complete keyboard aficionado? Do you want to learn about some new shortcuts? Or do you want to know if your favorite keyboard shortcuts are documented?

Go and get a copy of our PowerPoint Keyboard Shortcuts and Sequences E-Book.

PowerPoint Keyboard Shortcuts and Sequences E-book


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