Welcome to this Microsoft Excel Basic Visualizations help guide*. This guide will provide information on:
- how to create various types of visualizations in Excel;
- how to lightly format those visualizations.
For information on how to format and organize your data as well as how to create basic formulas, click here to access our Microsoft Excel Basic Guide. If you would prefer to consume much of the material offered in these two guides via a video, you can click here to view my Excel Intro Video for Beginners.
Basic components of an Excel visualization
Visualizations (oftentimes called charts or graphs) are visual representations of data. There are many types of visualizations which are each best suited for specific purposes.
- Visualizations typically have a title which either explains the nature of the data (example: Units Produced from 2017 to 2021) or make a point about something in the data (example: Drop in 2020 unit production due to supply chain issues)
- Visualizations are oftentimes, but not always, plotted on an XY diagram. In such cases, there is a Y axis (vertical increments) and an X axis (horizontal increments). These types of visualizations are oftentimes called graphs but Excel uses the chart descriptor for all visualizations. For consistency, we will adhere to the term "chart" throughout this guide.
- Data labels reveal something about the dataset (value, name, percentage, etc.). They can appear for a specific data point or for the entire data series.
- Legends indicate the name of the data series and can be placed in various areas of the chart.
It is important to know that Excel is not a static program and does come in many different flavours: Excel for PCs has various versions and while most of the functionality is retained from one version to the next, each iteration creates some changes to the platform. Excel also has a program for the Apple computer which has its own idiosyncrasies. Additionally, Excel has an online program which has has a truncated set of features compared to its PC counterpart. Finally, while not an Excel product, other spreadsheet programs (such as Google Sheets) do have many of the same features as the ones we will be discussing in this help guide. Please be aware of the program and version of Excel you are using. For your reference, we will be using Excel for Microsoft 365 (PC version) as our help guide version.