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.
Figure 1: Major and minor tick marks on chart axes
A few tick marks have been highlighted in red and blue within Figure 1, above. 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.
Major tick marks are indications on an axis that show up:
- Between the 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 the major tick marks on an axis. Typically PowerPoint charts do not display minor tick marks, but we enabled them in the chart shown 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 2007 for Windows:
- Open your presentation and insert a chart on your slide. Just accept defaults, as we did for the basic Column chart shown in Figure 2, below. 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.
Figure 2: Default position of tick marks in a column chart
- Click and select the chart axis for which you want to change the tick marks. Thereafter, right-click (Ctrl+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).
Figure 3: Format Axis option selected for the value axis
- This action summons the Format Axis dialog box. Make sure that the Ticks option is selected within the sidebar as shown in Figure 4, below.
Figure 4: Ticks option selected within the Format Axis dialog box
- As you can see in Figure 4 above, there are four types of major and minor tick marks. These four types work similarly for both the major and minor tick marks, and indicate the position of your tick marks vis-à-vis the axis.
- Let's explore these options, as marked in Figure 4, and illustrated in Figures 5, 6, 7, and 8:
- As the name suggests, this option hides tick marks.
- Places tick marks outside of the plot area.
- Places tick marks inside the plot area.
- Places tick marks on the axis overlapping the axis, crossing it.
- Figure 5, shows all types of the major tick marks on value axis when we selected the None, Outside, Inside, and Cross viewability options.
Figure 5: Types of major tick marks on value axis from left to right (None, Outside, Inside, and Cross)
- Figure 6, shows the types of minor tick marks on value axis when we selected None, Outside, Inside, and Cross viewability options.
Figure 6: Types of minor tick marks on value axis from left to right (None, Outside, Inside, and Cross)
- Figure 7, shows the types of the major tick marks on category axis when we selected None, Outside, Inside, and Cross viewability options.
Figure 7: Types of major tick marks on category axis from top to bottom (None, Outside, Inside, and Cross)
- Figure 8, shows the types of minor tick marks on category axis when we selected None, Outside, Inside, and Cross viewability options.
Figure 8: Types of minor tick marks on category axis from top to bottom (None, Outside, Inside, and Cross)
- Save your presentation often.
Overlapping Tick Marks
The minor tick marks and the major tick marks overlap each other at the position of major tick marks. This is so familiar to all of you because that's how the everyday common geometrical 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.
10 08 04 - Chart Axes: Tick Marks (Glossary Page)