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Chart Elements in PowerPoint 2010

Author: Geetesh Bajaj

Product/Version: PowerPoint 2010

Date Created: August 19th 2010
Last Updated: August 19th 2010

Excerpt/Capsule: Learn about different chart elements in PowerPoint 2010.

Charts in PowerPoint comprise several elements that we call chart elements. Typical 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 more about these individual chart elements. Before starting, we are assuming you already have a chart inserted on a PowerPoint slide -- if not, check out this page that shows how you can place a new chart on a slide in PowerPoint 2010...

Selecting Chart Elements

Follow these steps to select individual chart elements in PowerPoint 2010:

  1. Select the chart, which activates Chart Tools tabs on the Ribbon, as shown in Figure 1.

    Chart Tools in PowerPoint
    Figure 1: Chart Tools

  2. You can select any individual chart elements -- such as the plot area, columns, legend, etc. However, with so many chart elements close to each other, and sometime overlapping each other, it's easier to use another selection process.

  3. Select the Chart Tools Layout tab of the Ribbon (see Figure 2).

    Chart Tools Layout tab

    Figure 2: Chart Tools Layout tab

  4. Under the Current Selection group (extreme left on the Ribbon tab), you'll find a dropdown list of chart elements, as you can see highlighted in Figure 3 -- this contains a listing of all chart elements in the active chart. Selecting the individual elements in this list also selects that element within the actual chart.

    Chart elements in the dropdown list in PowerPoint
    Figure 3: Chart elements in the dropdown list

    Note: Figure 3 displays the chart elements for a typical column chart -- if your chart type is different, you will see different chart elements.

  5. Select any of the element in the dropdown list and click Format Selection option right below the same dropdown (see Figure 4). For example, if you have selected Plot Area in the dropdown list, clicking Format Selection will give you options to format the Plot Area.

    Format Selection
    Figure 4: Format Selection

  6. With the Plot Area chart element selected, choosing the Format Selection option brings up Format Chart Area dialog box, as shown in Figure 5. If you had some other chart element selected, the dialog box that you would end up with would have options pertaining to your selection -- so this is all very logical and intuitive.

    Format Chart Area dialog box
    Figure 5: Format Chart Area dialog box

  7. Format the Plot Area (or another chart element you may have selected) as required - and then click Close to get back to your chart.

Chart Elements

Although different charts have differing chart objects, these are the common chart objects found in almost all chart types:

  1. Axes: Most of the charts has two axes:

    • 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.

  2. Plot Area: The area within the axes is knows as plot area. The plot area includes the series, gridlines, etc. And the legend and titles are normally placed outside the plot area.

  3. Gridlines: Most of the time, you may see horizontal gridlines but vertical gridlines are also available -- and both of them can be formatted as required.

  4. Titles: There are two types of titles:

    • Chart title, by default placed above the chart, and
    • Axes titles, by default placed besides the axes.

  5. Datasheet mode: Getting into datasheet mode in PowerPoint 2010 translates to launching Microsoft Excel with your data available to edit, add, remove, etc. This Excel sheet contains the values based on which the chart is created. In case you find yourself in a rare situation where you have PowerPoint 2010 installed without Excel 2010 -- then you'll see the regular Microsoft Graph datasheet that was the norm in the days of PowerPoint 2003 and previous versions.

  6. Series: Every column of data within the data that's shown as a component of the chart is knows as series.

  7. Categories: A set of series can be represented as a category.

  8. Values: These are the individual figures that identify each series. The font and placement for these can be formatted.

  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. Legends are automatically created with the chart itself, although you can opt to remove the legend.

See Also:

Chart Elements in PowerPoint 2013 for Windows
Chart Elements in PowerPoint 2011 for Mac
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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