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Tick Marks in PowerPoint 2010 for Windows

Learn about tick marks on chart axes in PowerPoint 2010 for Windows. Tick marks can be major or minor, and can show up on either side of the axes, both inside and outside.

Charts are a visual representation of data, and when seen on a PowerPoint slide from afar, you make out the value of a series by exploring where exactly it's placed vis-à-vis the axis. Of course, if your chart has data labels, then this is less of an issue. However, typical charts such as the one shown in Figure 1, below have no data labels. For such a chart, you'll notice that the column representing Grapes in 2009 is a little taller than the value 4 in the adjacent axis, indicating a rough value of around 4.25. We're still not sure, and the Tick Marks placed on the axis will help us get a better idea.

There are two types of tick marks: major and minor. In Figure 1, below, we chose two colors to highlight these tick marks because most chart types show two types of tick marks on axes, major as shown highlighted in red and minor as shown highlighted in blue.


Figure 1: Major and minor tick marks on chart axes

Major tick marks are indications on an axis that show up:

  • Between categories on the horizontal axis, and,
  • Besides major unit values on the vertical axis

Both are shown highlighted in red within Figure 1, above.

Minor tick marks are those tick marks that appear between major tick marks on an axis. Typically PowerPoint charts do not display minor tick marks, but we enabled them in the chart as shown in highlighted in blue within Figure 1, above. Minor tick marks help users measure the distance between the major tick marks.

If you look at this picture of a ruler (picture sourced from Office.com), you'll recollect that both major and minor tick marks have been available in all types of rulers we have used, even the rulers used in primary school.

In this tutorial we will learn how to show/hide these tick marks and also where you display these major and minor tick marks in PowerPoint 2010 for Windows:

  1. Open your presentation and insert a chart on your slide, as shown in Figure 2, below. Just accept defaults, as we did for the basic Column chart shown in Figure 2. The default position of tick marks depends upon the chart type you are working with. Also notice that minor tick marks are hidden by default for a Column chart.

  2. Figure 2: Default position of tick marks in a column charts
  3. Click and select the chart axis for which you want to change the position of tick marks. Then, right-click to bring up a contextual menu as shown in Figure 3, below. From this contextual menu, choose the Format Axis option (refer to Figure 3 again).

  4. Figure 3: Format Axis option selected for the value axis
  5. Note: Can't see the Horizontal gridlines in Figure 3? We have disabled them so that the tick marks in various positions are clearly visible in our screenshots.
  6. This action summons the Format Axis dialog box. In this dialog box, make sure that Axis Options is selected within the sidebar as shown in Figure 4, below. Locate the Major tick mark type and Minor tick mark type options as shown highlighted in red within Figure 4.

  7. Figure 4: Tick mark options within the Format Axis dialog box
  8. Click the downward pointing arrow associated with either Major tick mark type or Minor tick mark type. You can see that there are four viewability options for major and minor tick marks as shown in Figure 5, below.

  9. Figure 5: Major and minor tick mark viewability options
  10. Let's explore them in the order they appear in Figure 5, above:
  11. A. None

  12. As the name suggests, this option hides tick marks.
  13. B. Inside

  14. Positions tick marks inside the plot area.


  15. C. Outside

  16. Positions tick marks outside of the plot area.
  17. D. Cross

  18. Places tick marks on the axis they overlap with the axis, crossing it.
  19. Figure 6, shows the positions of Major tick marks on Value Axis when we selected the None, Inside, Outside, and Cross options.

  20. Figure 6: Major tick marks positioned at None, Inside, Outside, and Cross viewability options on the value axis
  21. Figure 7 shows the positions of minor tick marks on the value axis when we selected the None, Inside, Outside, and Cross viewability options.

  22. Figure 7: Minor tick marks positioned at None, Inside, Outside, and Cross viewability options on the value axis

  23. Figure 8, shows the positions of major tick marks on the category axis when we selected the None, Inside, Outside, and Cross viewability options.

  24. Figure 8: Major tick marks positioned at None, Inside, Outside, and Cross viewability options on the category axis
  25. Figure 9, shows the positions of minor tick marks on the category axis when we selected the None, Inside, Outside, and Cross viewability options.

  26. Figure 9: Minor tick marks positioned at None, Inside, Outside, and Cross viewability options on the category axis
  27. Save your presentation often.

Overlapping Tick Marks

Minor tick marks and major tick marks overlap each other at the position of major tick marks. This is so familiar to most of us because that's how the common ruler works. So, if you hide major tick marks but still show minor tick marks, the minor tick marks appear at the regular major tick-mark positions too. But of course, these are not as pronounced.


See Also:

Chart Axes: Tick Marks (Glossary Page)

Tick Marks in PowerPoint 2013 for Windows
Tick Marks in PowerPoint 2011 for Mac