What Is the Advantage of Using the Chart Function in Excel?

By Allen Bethea

Spreadsheet graphs and charts help you visualize data.
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While it's true that numbers don't lie, they may conceal, disguise, camouflage, veil and obfuscate the information on which you need to evaluate and base decisions. It can be especially difficult at times to glean knowledge from reams of raw, Excel spreadsheet data. You can, however, take advantage Excel's chart functions to help you quickly visualize data and gain insights buried deep within the rows and columns of raw worksheet data.

Aggregating Data

Worksheet charts enable you to condense or summarize large amounts of data within a small, rectangular section of your worksheet. For instance, you could create a worksheet with rows and columns containing ten years of stock closing prices that would leave you glassy-eyed and numb if you tried to analyze them. Instead, use Excel's charting tools to create a line or X-Y scatter chart that can help you visualize the price fluctuations of your stock over the years.

Expose Patterns and Trends

Charts can help you see patterns and trends that may be obscured within your worksheet cells. Line, bar and area charts enable you to deduce the direction and momentum of data over time or in terms of another unit of measurement. For instance, a plot of average, daily global temperature and sea levels over the past century could help climatologists distinguish between a short-term climate aberration and a bona fide, global warming or cooling trend.

Expose Outlying Data

Scatter and line charts can help you spot outliers or data items that seem out of place or unrelated to the rest of the data. Outliers may be caused typing mistakes, instrument malfunctions or simply random, nonsensical data that can safely be ignored. Not only do outlying data run counter to any patterns or trends shown in the rest of the data, they can skew or distort averages, sums and other analytical calculations you may want to perform.

Communicate Complex or Abstruse Data

Charts can help you or the people you share your Excel worksheets with grasp data that is hard to visual or comprehend in words or numbers. Pie charts help viewers grasp percentages, ratios and proportions instantly. Bar and column charts enable you to compare and rank sets of data without even looking at the raw numbers they represent.