Microsoft Office Tutorials and References
In Depth Information
Data That Uses a Date or Time Scale
Practical Charting
Fortunately, you have the power to override Excel’s choice if you need to. Just select
your chart, and then choose Chart Tools | Design Data Switch Row/Column. If
you try this action on the charts in Figure 19-10, you reverse the results. Thus, the
chart on the left would group the data into yearly series, and the chart on the right
would group the data into regional series. To return them to normal, you can select
each chart, and then click Switch Row/Column again.
Figure 19-10:
The chart on the left
is pretty
straightforward. The chart on
the right shows a
line for each year,
which makes sense
if you concentrate
on what’s being
depicted, but mostly
shows how people
can use computers to
complicate things.
Up to speed
The Difference Between a Column and a Line
With simple column charts, life is easy. It doesn’t matter too
much what data you choose to use for your category axis
because your choice simply changes the way data’s grouped.
Other chart types that follow the same principle include pie
charts (which only allow one series), bar charts (like column
charts, but oriented horizontally instead of vertically), and
donut charts (where each series is a separate ring).
to another. That means it makes sense to use a line to
connect different dates in a region (showing how sales have
changed over time), but it probably doesn’t make sense
to use a line to connect different regions for each date.
Technically, this latter scenario (shown on the right side of
Figure 19-10) should show how yearly sales vary as you
move from region to region, but it’s just too
counterintuitive for anyone to interpret it properly.
The same isn’t true for line charts and most other types of
Excel charts. The category axis you use for a line chart is
important because the values in each series are connected
(in this case, with a line). This line suggests some sort of
“movement” or transition as values move from one category
As a general rule of thumb, use time or date values for the
category axis. You should do this especially for chart types
like line and area, which usually show how things change
over time.
Data That Uses a Date or Time Scale
As the previous example shows, using time or date values for the category axis makes
a lot of sense for charting progress or spotting long-term trends. However, the
example does cheat a little. Even though any sentient human knows that the labels
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