Make Full Use of Excel's Charting Features with These Tips


Microsoft Excel 2010 is one of the most powerful desktop applications ever released. It's so powerful, in fact, that many companies overly rely on the spreadsheet for data management tasks that are better suited for a database application. And the Excel interface is so ingrained with business users that many business intelligence and database application vendors offer plug-ins to let users rely on Excel as their "window" to the software.


It's odd, then, that many users don't know how to fully take advantage of some Excel tool sets. Or perhaps it is to be expected-Excel offers so many calculation and formatting options that it's easier to just learn the 20 percent you absolutely need to get by, and then wing the rest.


"Creating Charts to Present Your Data," a 28-page book excerpt available free to IT Business Edge Members here in the IT Downloads library, offers a deep look at the quick formatting and data linking options available in Excel 2010.


The chapter from "Office 2010 Made Simple," published by Apress, is a highly visual walk-through of the software that will make for great staff training material. You can see the detail offered in the typical screenshot in the image below.



Of course, you'd like to think that even your entry-level staff members know how to use the Microsoft Office UI to set fonts. Fair enough. But the book chapter also includes several resources and tips that can be useful to even folks who have been using Excel for years, including:


  • When to use a given chart format to best present your data (how many folks actually know when to use a Doughnut chart instead of a series of pie charts?).
  • How to use the Move Chart dialog to convert an embedded chart into its own chart sheet.
  • How to create and use styles to enforce a common look and feel for charts across your reports. This can be an enormous time-saver and a feature most Excel users never use.
  • How to format the wall and floor (background) of a chart for added emphasis.
  • How to easily format an individual chart element, which can be an enormous pain.


All in all, it is a great resource from which most any Excel user can learn something useful.


Also be sure to check out the Microsoft Excel 2010 Reference Guide, from our partners at CustomGuide. The two-page PDF is appropriate for printing and posting in a workspace for quick reference. Among other helpful pointers, you'll find advice on how to create Sparklines and manage the sheets within a workbook.

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