Change the display of chart axes

For most chart types, you can display or hide chart axes (axis: A line bordering the chart plot area used as a frame of reference for measurement. The y axis is usually the vertical axis and contains data. The x-axis is usually the horizontal axis and contains categories.). To make chart data easier to understand, you can also make adjustments to the way that chart axes are displayed.

For information about how to change to the scale of chart axes, see:

What do you want to do?


Learn more about axes

Charts typically have two axes that are used to measure and categorize data: a vertical axis (also known as value axis or y axis), and a horizontal axis (also known as category axis or x axis). 3-D charts have a third axis, the depth axis (also known as series axis or z axis), so that data can be plotted along the depth of a chart. Radar charts do not have horizontal (category) axes, and pie and doughnut charts do not have any axes.


Chart that displays a horizontal, vertical, and depth axis

Step 1 Vertical (value) axis

Step 2 Horizontal (category) axis

Step 3 Depth (series) axis


Not all chart types display axes the same way. For example, xy (scatter) charts and bubble charts show numeric values on both the horizontal axis and the vertical axis. An example might be how inches of rainfall are plotted against barometric pressure. Both of these items have numeric values, and the data points will be plotted on the x and y axes relative to their numeric values. Value axes provide a variety of options, such as setting the scale to logarithmic.

Other chart types, such as column, line, and area charts, show numeric values on the vertical (value) axis only and show textual groupings (or categories) on the horizontal axis. An example might be how inches of rainfall are plotted against geographic regions. In this example, the geographic regions are textual categories of the data that are plotted on the horizontal (category) axis. The geographic regions will be uniformly spaced because they are text instead of values that can be measured. Consider this difference when you select a chart type, because the options are different for value and category axes. On a related note, the depth (series) axis is another form of category axis. For more information about how to change the scaling of value axes, see Change the scale of the vertical (value) axis in a chart.

When you create a chart, tick marks and labels (tick marks and tick-mark labels: Tick marks are small lines of measurement, similar to divisions on a ruler, that intersect an axis. Tick-mark labels identify the categories, values, or series in the chart.) are displayed by default on axes. You can adjust the way that they are displayed by using major and minor tick marks and labels. To eliminate clutter in a chart, you can display fewer axis labels or tick marks on the horizontal (category) axis by specifying the intervals at which you want categories to be labeled, or by specifying the number of categories that you want to display between tick marks.

You can also change the alignment and orientation of the labels, and change or format the text and numbers that they display, for example, to display a number as a percentage.

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Display or hide axes

  1. Click anywhere in the chart for which you want to display or hide axes.

This displays the Chart Tools, adding the Design, Layout, and Format tabs.

  1. On the Layout tab, in the Axes group, click Axes.

Excel Ribbon Image

  1. Do one of the following:
    • To display an axis, click the type of axis that you want to display, and then click one of the options that show the axis.
    • To hide an axis, click the type of axis that you want to hide, and then click None.

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Adjust axis tick marks and labels

  1. On a chart, click the axis that has the tick marks and labels that you want to adjust, or do the following to select the axis from a list of chart elements:
    1. Click anywhere in the chart.

This displays the Chart Tools, adding the Design, Layout, and Format tabs.

  1. On the Format tab, in the Current Selection group, click the arrow next to the Chart Elements box, and then click the axis that you want to select.

Excel Ribbon Image

  1. On the Format tab, in the Current Selection group, click Format Selection.
  2. Click Axis Options if it's not selected, and then do one or more of the following:
  • To change the display of major tick marks, in the Major tick mark type box, click the tick mark position that you want.
  • To change the display of minor tick marks, in the Minor tick mark type drop-down list box, click the tick mark position that you want.
  • To change the position of the labels, in the Axis labels box, click the option that you want.

 Tip   You can hide tick marks or tick-mark labels by clicking None.

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Change the number of categories between labels or tick marks

  1. On a chart, click the horizontal (category) axis that you want to change, or do the following to select the axis from a list of chart elements:
    1. Click anywhere in the chart.

This displays the Chart Tools, adding the Design, Layout, and Format tabs.

  1. On the Format tab, in the Current Selection group, click the arrow next to the Chart Elements box, and then click the axis that you want to select.

Excel Ribbon Image

  1. On the Format tab, in the Current Selection group, click Format Selection.
  2. Click Axis Options if it's not selected, and then do one or both of the following:
  • To change the interval between axis labels, under Interval between labels, click Specify interval unit, and then in the text box, type the number that you want.

 Tip   Type 1 to display a label for every category, 2 to display a label for every other category, 3 to display a label for every third category, and so on.

  • To change the placement of axis labels, in the Label distance from axis box, type the number that you want.

 Tip   Type a smaller number to place the labels closer to the axis. Type a larger number if you want more distance between the label and the axis.

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Change the alignment and orientation of labels

You can change the alignment of axis labels on both horizontal (category) and vertical (value) axes. When you have multiple-level category labels (multiple-level category labels: Category labels in a chart that, based on worksheet data, are automatically displayed on more than one line in a hierarchy. For example, the heading Produce might appear above a row with headings Tofu, Apples, and Pears.) in your chart, you can change the alignment of all levels of labels. You can also change the amount of space between levels of labels on the horizontal (category) axis.

  1. On a chart, click the axis that has the labels that you want to align differently, or do the following to select the axis from a list of chart elements:
    1. Click anywhere in the chart.

This displays the Chart Tools, adding the Design, Layout, and Format tabs.

  1. On the Format tab, in the Current Selection group, click the arrow next to the Chart Elements box, and then click the axis that you want to select.

Excel Ribbon Image

  1. On the Format tab, in the Current Selection group, click Format Selection.
  2. On the Alignment tab, under Text Layout, click the position that you want in the Vertical alignment box.
  3. To change the orientation of the text, click the position that you want in the Text Direction box.

 Tip   To quickly change the horizontal alignment of selected axis labels, right-click the axis, and then click Align Left Button image, Center Button image, or Align Right Button image on the Mini toolbar.

 Note   You cannot manually rotate the text in labels, but long labels are automatically rotated when you reduce the size of the chart.

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Change the text of category labels

Do one of the following:

  • To change the category labels on the worksheet, do the following:
    1. Click the cell that contains the name of the label that you want to change.
    2. Type the new name, and then press ENTER.

 Note   Changes that you make on the worksheet are automatically updated in the chart.

  • To change category labels on the chart, click the horizontal axis on a chart, or do the following to select the axis from a list of chart elements:
  1. Click anywhere in the chart.

This displays the Chart Tools, adding the Design, Layout, and Format tabs.

  1. On the Format tab, in the Current Selection group, click the arrow next to the Chart Elements box, and then click the axis that you want to select.

Excel Ribbon Image

  1. On the Design tab, in the Data group, click Select Data.

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  1. Under Horizontal (Categories) Axis Labels, click Edit.
  2. In the Axis Label Range box, specify the worksheet range that you want to use as category axis labels, or type the labels that you want to use, separated by commas — for example, Division A, Division B, Division C.

 Tip   You can also click the Collapse Dialog button Button image  at the right end of the Axis Label Range box and then select the range that you want to use as category axis labels on the worksheet. When you finish, click the Collapse Dialog button again to display the whole dialog box.

 Note   If you type the label text in the Axis Label Range box, the category axis label text is no longer linked to a worksheet cell.

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Change the format of text and numbers in labels

Do one of the following:

  • To format text in labels, do the following:
    1. On a chart, right-click the axis labels that you want to format.
    2. On the Mini toolbar, click the formatting options that you want.

 Tip   You can also use the formatting buttons on the Ribbon (Home tab, Font group), which is a component of the Microsoft Office Fluent user interface.

  • To format numbers in labels, do the following:
  1. On a chart, click the axis that displays the numbers that you want to format, or do the following to select the axis from a list of chart elements:
    • Click anywhere in the chart.

This displays the Chart Tools, adding the Design, Layout, and Format tabs.

  • On the Format tab, in the Current Selection group, click the arrow next to the Chart Elements box, and then click the axis that you want to select.

Excel Ribbon Image

  1. On the Format tab, in the Current Selection group, click Format Selection.
  2. Click Number, and then in the Category box, select the number format that you want.

 Tip   If the number format you select uses decimal places, you can specify them in the Decimal places box.

  1. To keep numbers linked to the worksheet cells, select the Linked to Source check box.

 Note   Before you format numbers as a percentage, make sure that the numbers on the chart have been calculated as percentages in the source data, and that they are displayed in decimal format. Percentages are calculated on the worksheet by using the equation amount / total = percentage. For example, if you calculate 10 / 100 = 0.1, and then format 0.1 as a percentage, the number will be correctly displayed as 10%. For more information about how to calculate percentages, see Calculate percentages.

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Applies to:
Excel 2007, Outlook 2007, PowerPoint 2007, Word 2007