How to Convert Excel Data to Charts
By Shawn McClain
The cells in Microsoft Excel 2010 may be great at storing information, but long rows of data are not usually the best way to present the information to others or even understand the data yourself. To help you visualize the cell data, Excel includes a number of chart types, ranging from standard bar charts to 3-D area charts to circular pie charts. Excel can convert almost any group of data into a chart, so all you have to do is arrange the data in a desirable way and choose the type of chart that you want.
Open the Excel file that contains the data that you want to make into a chart.
Add column headers to your data, if applicable. These headers sit on the top row of the data and describe the information for the column beneath them. Excel uses these headers as labels when it create the charts, so you have a better chance of creating a good-looking chart if you add the headers now. If you don't have an empty row above the data, right-click on the row number at the top of your data and choose "Insert." Then add the heading for the information.
Select any cell within the data field. Excel automatically expands the selection to all adjacent cells when you create the chart. If you only want to chart a specific range of cells in a larger data field, select the top-left cell of your desired data, then hold down "Shift" while you select the bottom-right cell of the data.
Click on the "Insert" tab at the top of the Excel window. Locate the Charts area and determine the type of chart you want to create. Column, line, pie, bar, area and scatter charts all have their own button, or you can click the arrow next to the word "Charts" to open up a window that contains every chart Excel can make. If you can't decide which type to create, just pick one. Excel lets you change the chart type on the fly.
Click anywhere on the chart and select the "Design" tab at the top of the screen. Use the "Change Chart Type" button on the far left side of the ribbon to choose a new chart type. A window containing every chart type appears, and you can select another type. Continue to experiment until you find a type that shows your data as you desire.
Right-click on any specific area of the chart, such as the legend, axis titles or the data labels, to bring up a list of options for that area. You can change the font, change the data area and add or remove gridlines. You can also make more intricate changes by choosing the "Format" option from the pop-up menu. If you don't like your changes, you can choose "Reset to Match Style," and the area settings are reset to match the overall style of the chart.
Shawn McClain has spent over 15 years as a journalist covering technology, business, culture and the arts. He has published numerous articles in both national and local publications, and online at various websites. He is currently pursuing his master's degree in journalism at Clarion University.