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Switch Series and Categories in PowerPoint 2011 for Mac

Learn how to switch data between your series and categories in PowerPoint 2011 for Mac. This option can help you swap data easily, without having to start creating a chart all over again.

Any typical chart inserted in PowerPoint contains two types of data. One of these shows as the series within your charts, and the second data type ends up representing categories. By default, the series are shown as the individual chart elements—for example, as individual columns in a column chart. Also, the series shows up as the Legend for the chart. Categories on the other hand constitute the groups of these individual columns.

In our sample chart that you can see in Figure 1, below, the individual fruits (Grapes, Apples, and Bananas) are the series whereas the years (2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012) constitute the categories. If needed, you can quickly swap the visual representation of series and categories in the chart.

Figure 1: Chart selected

The Data is Saved in Excel

All data that works behind the scenes for any chart in PowerPoint is essentially stored in an Excel sheet. If you want to explore this data, bring up the Excel sheet that contains the data. This process is explained in our Edit Chart Data in PowerPoint 2011 for Mac tutorial. Within this Excel sheet, your data will show up in rows and columns. One of these ends up as categories for your PowerPoint chart and the other reflects as the series. There is no fixed rule about whether a row or column has to be either resulting in a category or a series. This relation can be easily switched all the time. In fact this tutorial is all about this very "switching".

Follow these steps to swap series and categories for a chart in PowerPoint 2011 for Mac:

  1. To begin, you need to select a chart on your slide. For this tutorial, we have selected a column chart, as shown in Figure 1, previously on this page.
  2. With the chart still selected, access the Charts tab of the Ribbon and locate the Switch Plot button, that is shown highlighted in red within Figure 2, below.

  3. Figure 2: Switch Plot button

  4. Why Can't I Click the Switch Plot Button?

  5. Is the Switch Plot button grayed out? This indicates that the Excel sheet containing the chart data is not open. To open the Excel sheet containing the chart data, just click the Edit button (highlighted in blue within Figure 2, above). Doing so opens the Excel sheet containing the chart data. Now, come back to PowerPoint again, and you will see that the Switch Plot button is no longer grayed out.
  6. As you can see in Figure 2, above, the Switch Plot button contains two buttons. The left button plots the series by row, and the right button plots the series by column. Currently, the chart series have been plotted by column, as indicated by the selected status of the right half of this button (refer to Figure 2, above). To switch rows and columns of your chart, click the left half of the Switch Plot button that shows the tool tip 'Plot series by row' as shown in Figure 3, below.

  7. Figure 3: Plot series by row
  8. Doing so will modify your chart by switching the categories and series, as shown in Figure 4 (compare Figures 1 and 4).

  9. Figure 4: Chart categories and series interchanged
  10. Don't See Numbers as Numbers (See Them as Text)

  11. If your chart's category names contain just numbers and no alphabets, then the switching process may not work for you. For example, if we remove the word 'Year' from our sample chart's category names, then clicking the Switch Row/Column button will not achieve the desired result. That's because the charting engine treats those cells as numbers and uses them to populate series values and categories. So, if you want to switch rows and columns, make sure that your chart's category names are formatted as Text.
  12. If you want the chart to get back to its original status, click the right half (Plot series by column) of the Switch Plot button that you saw in Figure 3 earlier on this page.
  13. Save your presentation often.

See Also:

Chart Data: Switch Series and Categories (Glossary Page)

Switch Series and Categories in PowerPoint 2013 for Windows