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Chapter 11: Working with Charts

By: Patrice-Anne Rutledge and Jim Grey

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Read Patrice's interview here...

Date Created:
Last Updated: February 26th 2009

...Continued from Page 2

Formatting a Chart
Adding a Trendline

Continued on Page 4...

Formatting a Chart

Microsoft Graph offers detailed precision in chart creation and the opportunity to make numerous formatting changes. You can set overall chart options or format specific chart objects. Before making major changes to the chart's default settings, be sure to carefully consider your reason for customizing. Different is better only when it adds value or clarity to your chart.

Note - If the chart isn't active, you won't see the chart menu and toolbar options. Double-click the chart to select it and display chart options.

Setting Overall Chart Options

Use the Chart Options dialog box to set overall chart options for the chart type you selected. In Microsoft Graph, choose Chart, Chart Options to display this dialog box, shown in Figure 11.17.

Figure 11.17: Set a variety of chart-formatting options in this dialog box.

We'll use the clustered 3D column chart type as an example as we explore the tabs of this dialog box. If you select a different chart type (such as a pie), the options and tabs might differ slightly.

Make any necessary changes within the tabs of this dialog box, and then click OK to apply them to your presentation.

Entering Chart Titles

On the Titles tab, you can enter titles for the overall chart and the available axes such as category, value, or series. The example to the right previews these changes in your chart.

Caution - The chart title isn't the same as a slide title. If you create a chart title, your chart will have two titles—one for the slide and one for the chart.

Formatting Axes

On the Axes tab, shown in Figure 11.18, you can choose whether to display category, series, and value axes. If a particular axis isn't available, you won't be able to choose it. In this example, the category axis displays the data you entered in the first row of cells in your datasheet. The value axis displays a numerical series based on the values you entered in the datasheet.

Figure 11.18: Specify whether to display a particular axis.

Formatting Gridlines

On the Gridlines tab (see Figure 11.19), you can choose whether to display major or minor gridlines for all available axes.

Figure 11.19: Major gridlines, selected by default, can make values easier to read.

Note - Pie and doughnut charts don't have gridlines.

Displaying a Legend

On the Legend tab, shown in Figure 11.20, you can choose to display a legend by selecting the Show Legend check box.

Placement options include placing your legend at the bottom, corner, top, right, or left of your chart.

Tip - After you place a legend on your chart, you can select and drag it to a new location.

Figure 11.20: A legend makes a chart easier to understand.

Displaying Data Labels

A data label makes data in your chart easier to identify. You can display a value, percent, text label, text label and percent, a bubble size, or no label at all. Figure 11.21 shows the Data Labels tab.

Figure 11.21: Data labels are optional means of identifying chart information.

Note - Depending on the chart type you select, not all data label options are available.

If you do choose to display a data label, the Legend Key check box appears. Check this box if you want to display a color-coded box next to the data label to associate it with the legend.

Displaying a Data Table

If you want to include a table with all your datasheet data in your chart, you can choose the Show Data Table check box in the Data Table tab (see Figure 11.22).

Figure 11.22: If your chart contains complex numerical data, a data table can make this information more meaningful.

If you select this option, you also have the choice to Show Legend Keys if you want to display a color-coded box in the table columns to associate them with the legend.

Formatting Chart Objects

You can format individual chart objects, such as the chart area, axes, series, legend, and gridlines. To format a specific chart object, select it from the Chart Objects drop-down list on the Standard toolbar, and then click the Format button to the right of the drop-down list. A Format dialog box customized for the type of object you select appears. For example, you might see the Format Axis dialog box or the Format Data Series dialog box, depending on the selected chart object. If the Format button isn't available, no formatting options exist for the selected chart object.

You can modify many formatting options from the Format dialog box, including pattern, font, placement, scale, alignment, and shape. Remember, though, that numerous changes don't always enhance a chart. Go easy.

To learn more about the available options in this dialog box, see "Using the Format Dialog Box" in Chapter 14, p. 296.

Some things you might want to consider changing include the following:

  • Apply a different color to the data series fill areas. To do this, select the data series you want to modify from the Chart Objects drop-down list and click the Format button. Figure 11.23 illustrates the Format Data Series dialog box.

    Choose a new color from the Area group box and click OK. PowerPoint updates the color in the presentation.

Figure 11.23: Change fill color in this dialog box.

  • Increase or decrease font size to make text more readable or to make it fit a specific area. For example, to change the font size of the legend, select the legend in the Chart Objects drop-down list and click the Format Legend button to display the dialog box of the same name (see Figure 11.24).

    From the Font tab, you can increase or decrease the font size as needed.

Figure 11.24: Adjusting the font size is a common formatting change.

  • Adjust the value axis scale. To do this, select the value axis from the Chart Objects drop-down list and click the Format Axis button. Figure 11.25 shows the Scale tab in the Format Axis dialog box.

    You can change the minimum and maximum values or the major and minor gridline units on the Scale tab. For example, if all the values in your chart are more than 100 and you want to see the variations in the existing values more clearly, change the minimum value from 0 to 100. PowerPoint updates the presentation, making the differences between the three data series much more apparent.

Figure 11.25: You can adjust the axes and gridlines in the Format Axis dialog box.

Formatting 3D View

If you choose a 3D chart type, you can format 3D viewing options such as elevation, rotation, height, and perspective. Table 11.3 explains each of these options.

Table 11.3 3D View Options

3D View Option Description
Elevation Lets you control the elevation level from which you view the chart. The range is from –90° to 90° with a default of 15°.
Rotation Lets you control the plot area rotation around a vertical axis. The default rotation is 20° with a possible range of 0° to 360°. On 3D bar charts, the range is only up to 44°. Be careful not to overdo rotation, however. A 90° rotation on a typical column chart yields unreadable results, for example.
Height Lets you control the value axis height as a percentage of the category axis length. A height of 150% makes the chart height one and a half times the category axis length.
Perspective Lets you control the chart depth view in degrees. With a default of 30°, the range is from 0° to 100° and measures the ratio of the chart front to back. This option is unavailable when the Right Angle Axes check box is selected or when the chart type is a 3D bar.

To format these options, follow these steps:

  1. In Microsoft Graph, choose Chart, 3-D View to open the 3-D View dialog box, as shown in Figure 11.26.

Figure 11.26: Modify the way your chart displays 3D objects in this dialog box.

Caution - Again, the default settings for 3D options are designed to work with this chart. Be careful making changes! Major changes to a chart's elevation, rotation, height, or perspective can make it unreadable.

To learn more about 3D, see "Adding Shadow and 3D Effects" in Chapter 14, p. 303.

  1. Enter a new elevation in the Elevation field or click the up and down arrow buttons above this field to adjust elevation. The box to the right displays an example of what the selected change looks like.

  2. Enter a new rotation or click the left and right arrow buttons to the right of the field to change the rotation. The sample box previews this change.

  3. Click the Auto Scaling check box to automatically scale the chart to fit the slide.

  4. If you remove the check mark from the Auto Scaling check box, the Height field appears. In it, you can set height as a specific percentage of the base.

  5. If you remove the check mark from the Right Angle Axes check box, the Perspective field and associated arrow buttons appear. Set the perspective manually or use the buttons to modify the perspective.

  6. Click the Apply button to view the effects of potential changes to chart.

  7. Click the Default button to set the 3D changes you've made as your new default.
Tip - If you make a mistake, click Close to exit the dialog box without saving changes.

  1. Click OK to apply the changes and return to your presentation.


Adding a Trendline

A trendline creates a forecast of future trends based on existing data. For example, you can use a trendline to predict future revenues based on existing revenue data in a chart. This is also referred to as regression analysis.

You can use trendlines to make basic forecasts, but a solid understanding of regression analysis and statistics is necessary to make the best use of this feature.

You can display a trendline in unstacked area, bar, column, line, stock, XY (scatter), and bubble charts that don't have a 3D effect.

To create a trendline, follow these steps:

  1. Choose Chart, Add Trendline to open the Add Trendline dialog box, shown in Figure 11.27.

Figure 11.27: Predict future values by creating a trendline.

Can't access the Add Trendline menu option? See the "Troubleshooting" section near the end of this chapter.

  1. Choose the Trend/Regression Type, such as Linear or Moving Average, from the group box.

  2. Select the data series on which you want to base the trend from the Based on Series list.

  3. Click the Options tab for more options, shown in Figure 11.28.

  4. You can enter a custom name for the trendline or accept the default. The default uses the type of trendline you selected in the Type tab, followed by the series name in parentheses.

Figure 11.28: Specify the period of time you want to forecast.

  1. Indicate how many periods you want to forecast either forward or backward. For example, if your chart displays data for four quarters and you choose to forecast four periods forward, PowerPoint displays trends for the next full year in quarterly increments.

  2. Click OK to apply the trendline.

Figure 11.29 shows a sample trendline. Based on actual data from the past year, it forecasts for the next year how long callers to a help line will have to wait on hold before speaking to someone.

Figure 11.29: This chart illustrates both current values and future predictions.


Continued on Page 4...

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