5 Rules to Graphing Data in Excel

Most business organizations these days don’t wish to pour over pages and pages of spreadsheets when it’s better to turn all those rows and columns into a visual bar chart or graph. But someone has to do the transforming of data. And that someone might be you. So, are you ready to turn your boring Excel workbook into something that is a bit more interesting? In this post, you will learn how to create a graph on MS Excel and improve your visuals and reporting.

Quick Lesson: Difference Between Charts and Graphs

In your Excel workbook, you have everything that you need at your fingertips. The Excel users can leverage the power of visuals without any kind of additional extensions. You can have a nice and clean graph created inside your Excel sheet rather than exporting it to some other tool. But before doing that, you need to understand the difference between charts and graphs. People think that these are one in the same but technically speaking, they are not. Although graphs and charts are used interchangeably and people happily accept both in the real world, they are different ways of visualizing data. Let’s find out the difference

Charts are generally considered to be more pleasing when compared to the Graphs. For example, a pie chart that is used to convey the readers a relative share of a specific segment of the data, that is set with respect to the other segments available.

Graphs in Excel turn out to represent various variations, in values of the data point over a specific period of time. Graphs are simple when compared to charts as you will be dealing with different data parameters.

Excel offers users with a variety of graphs and they are as follows.

Line Graphs

Line Graphs are available in both 2 dimensional and three dimensional in all the versions of Microsoft Excel. The line graphs are great for showing trends over a specific period of time and plot more than one data parameter. Some examples of this could be the average number of hours the employee has worked in the entire week, the average number of rainfall per month in a given city, or in the image above, economic indicators in a country over the years.

Bar Graphs

graphing data in excel -magoosh

The bar graphs are very similar enough to the column graphs. It’s just that in a bar graph, the constant parameter is generally assigned to the y-axis and the variables are plotted against the x-axis (as seen in the above image).

Column graphs

Column graphs help the user view how specific parameters change over a period of time. And they can be called graphs only when a single kind of data parameter is used. In case there are multiple parameters into action, the user can’t get the insights about how each and every parameter mentioned out there have changed.

Rules to Plot a Graph in Excel

  1. Have your Excel sheet filled out with the data and then assign the right data types.
    The very first step is to populate your Excel sheet with the data that you need. And in case you have imported this data from a different software, then it is probably compiled in .csv format. If this is the case, try and use an online .csv to Excel converter tool and have the Excel file generated, saving the file with an Excel extension. Once you have converted the file, you will still have to clean up the rows and columns. It is always better when you work with the Excel spreadsheet so that the graph you are creating with the data available is always clean and easy to modify or change.
  2. Choosing the kind of Excel that you wish to change.
    This will actually depend on the kind of data that you wish to change, followed by the number of parameters that you would be tracking simultaneously. Say for example if you are looking out to take a note over time then line graphs are the best for it. This is what is actually used for the purpose of a tutorial.
  3. Highlighting the data sets that you actually wish to use.
    In order to have your graph created, you will have to select the different data parameters. And in order to do so, the cursor over the cell will be marked as A. You will then see it transforming into a tiny row that is pointing downwards. And when this turns out to happen, click on the cell A and the entire column then gets selected. Repeat the same process for B and C by pressing the ctrl button on the windows.
  4. Creating a basic Excel graph.
    With the following columns that are selected, click on the Insert tab and then choose the option 2D line graph. You will then immediately get to see the graph appearing below with your data values.
  5. Improving your Excel with the chart tools.
    In order to have the colours or the design of your graph changed, select the chart tools option in your Excel header, and then select the design, layout and the format that you wish too. Each and everything that you choose will help in changing up the look and feel of your graph.

To Conclude

Creating graphs in an Excel sheet is not a complex procedure if you want to create the graphs mentioned above. It’s a little more complicated when you want to create something like Gantt charts, there are some tools that help you do it in a right manner, including that linked post. 🙂 In case you are trying to do graphs for workloads, budget allocations, etc. then it’s recommended to check out project management software instead.

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