A chart in PowerPoint comprises several, individual objects that we like to call chart elements. On this page, we will explore each individual chart element. Before we do so, we'll show you how you can select these elements individually.
It is important to be able to select these chart elements individually because you can only change the look of an element after you select it. For example, in a column chart you select a column series to change the fill of a column.
For the rest of this page, 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 2003.
Selecting Chart Elements
It helps if you know the terminology or the names of individual chart elements. However, even if you are not too chart-aware, PowerPoint lets you select individual chart elements. Follow these steps to learn more:
- Double-click the chart to get into chart editing mode, as shown in Figure 1. Notice that the menu and toolbars are now changed from the default PowerPoint interface.
Figure 1: Chart editing mode
- You can select any individual chart element, 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. We explain this next.
- The Standard toolbar in chart editing mode has a dropdown list of chart elements, as you can see in Figure 2. This contains a listing of all chart elements in the active chart. Selecting the individual element in this list also selects that element within the actual chart.
Figure 2: Chart elements in the dropdown list
- Figure 2 shows the chart elements for a typical column chart. If your chart type is different, you will see different chart elements.
- Select any of the elements in the dropdown list to format it. For example, if you select the Legend option in the dropdown list, you'll find a Selected Legend option in the Format menu (see Figure 3).
Figure 3: Selected Legend
- Clicking this option in the Format menu brings up another dialog box. For example, if you clicked the Format | Selected Legend option, as shown in Figure 3, you'll see the Format Legend dialog box, as shown in Figure 4.
Figure 4: Format the legend of your chart
- Format the legend (or another Chart element) as required, and then click OK to get back to your edited chart.
- Follow the same process to format other chart elements. Once done with the formatting, click anywhere outside the chart to get back to the default PowerPoint interface.
Although different charts have differing chart elements, these are the common chart elements found in almost all chart types:
Most of the charts have two axes:
- The X-axis (the bottom axis), and
- The Y-axis (the left axis).
Some charts may also have a Z axis.
2. Plot Area
The area within the axes is known as the plot area. The plot area includes the series, gridlines, etc.
There are two types of titles:
- Chart title, normally placed above the chart, and
- Axis titles, normally placed besides the axes.
This sheet contains the values based on which the chart is created. Although most of the time, the datasheet is only visible in chart editing mode, it can also be made part of the actual chart and thus be visible in slideshow mode.
Every row of data within the datasheet shows up as a component of the chart. These represent the series. Series look different depending upon the chart type. For example, in a column chart, the series are represented as columns, and in pie charts, the series is represented as slices of a pie.
A set of series can be represented as a category. As you can see in Figure 1 above, the components: 1st Quarter, 2nd Quarter, etc. are categories.
These are the individual figures that identify each series. The font and placement for these can be formatted.
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.
These are lines representing average values placed at regular intervals on the plot area.
Chart Basics: Chart Elements (Glossary Page)