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Data Labels Charts in PowerPoint

Learn about the Data Labels in PowerPoint charts.


Product/Version: PowerPoint

OS: Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows XP / Vista / 7 / 8

Data labels are indications used to quickly identify data series in a chart. In Figure 1, below you can see data labels displayed on top of the columns in a chart.
Data labels identify values for columns in a chart
Figure 1: Data labels identify values for columns in a chart

Guidelines for Using Data Labels

There are some essential guidelines that relate to data labels:

  1. Data labels are determined from the values you input on the worksheet for the chart. Once you update those values, they get updated automatically on the chart too.
  2. You can adjust the positions of the data labels to make them easier to read in the chart. You can also change the font and font size.
  3. Data labels are not compulsory. If you don't want to display data labels, you can remove them.
  4. Data labels often duplicate information available on the Vertical (Value) axis. It is therefore acceptable to get rid of the Vertical axis if you choose to show data labels, as shown in Figure 2, below (compare with Figure 1).

    Chart with data labels, and no Vertical axis
    Figure 2: Chart with data labels, and no Vertical axis

Data Label Tips and Ideas

Here are some ideas on using data labels more effectively:

  1. Do you want something other than the value to show in the data label? You can add series or category names, the legend color (key), or even all of them! You can also override all these options, and choose a particular cell value for any individual data label.
  2. You have several options in positioning data labels, depending upon the chart type you are working. If any of the existing positioning options do not work for you, then manual positioning of data labels is also an option.
  3. You can change the font attributes of your data labels by altering font size, color, etc. You may be tempted to change the font itself, but only do so if you have a compelling reason to change the defaults, or if you are changing the font everywhere in the presentation or the chart.
  4. Data labels can be formatted as numbers, currency, dates, time, and many other field types. Each of these types offer separate formatting options.
  5. You can place data labels in a shape. Most of the time, this is not needed unless your data labels need to stand out.
  6. If you have a congested chart, or if you need to place your data labels at a distance, you may want to explore leader lines.

So as you see, data labels are an important chart element. Used effectively, data labels can help you illustrate a concept better to your audiences.

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