Top tips for Excel: Charts and graphics

Applies to
Microsoft Office Excel 2003
Microsoft Excel 2000 and 2002

Ever wish you had an Excel expert at your shoulder while you work, always ready with great tips and tricks? If so, this article is for you. See the following sections to learn new or faster ways to work with charts, graphics, and other objects.

Creating charts

  • To create and customize a chart at the same time, select the data you want to present in the chart, and then click Chart Wizard on the Standard toolbar.
  • To create a chart instantly, select the data you want to present in the chart, and then press F11 or ALT+F1.
  • Changing the chart type of your chart is easy. Right-click the chart, and then click Chart Type.
  • When you change the chart type, retain custom formatting by clearing the Default Formatting check box on the Standard Types tab.
  • You can change the chart type for just one data series by selecting it, and then clicking Chart Type on the Chart menu. Make sure the Apply To Selection check box is selected.

Chart display

  • Double-click a part of a chart to open the Format dialog box for that object.
  • Change the point at which the category and value axes cross by double-clicking the category axis (or value axis). On the Scale tab, change the number in the Category (X) axis crosses at box (or the Value (Y) axis crosses at category number box).
  • You can move or resize the plot area of a chart. Drag its border to move it, or drag a selection handle to change the size.
  • Change the overlap between bars or columns by selecting them, and then clicking Selected Data Series on the Format menu. On the Options tab, change the percentage in the Overlap box.
  • As you use the arrow keys to scroll through the Chart Objects box on the Chart toolbar, the corresponding item in the chart is selected.

Data markers, data labels, and text

  • In most charts, you can format an individual data marker. Click the marker until it is the only one selected, and then click Selected Data Point on the Format menu.
  • Select a single data marker by clicking once to select the data series, and then again to select the data marker.
  • You can label all points in a data series. Select the data series, click Selected Data Series on the Format menu, and then select the label options on the Data Labels tab.
  • You can reposition selected data labels automatically. Click Selected Data Labels on the Format menu, and then select the options you want on the Alignment tab.
  • If data labels overlap, you can drag them to another location or choose a smaller font size for them in the Font Size box on the Formatting toolbar.
  • Fix truncated labels on an axis by double-clicking them, and then changing the rotation angle on the Alignment tab. If the angle is 0, 90, or -90 degrees, the text will wrap.
  • Use different colors for each marker in a selected data series by clicking Selected Data Series on the Format menu. On the Options tab, select the Vary colors by point check box.
  • When you click the Spelling button to check the spelling in a chart, all text that is not linked to the worksheet will be checked.

Drawings and diagrams

  • Right-click any object to display a shortcut menu with useful commands for that object.
  • Quickly bring an object to the foreground or send it to the background. Right-click the object, point to Order on the shortcut menu, and then click Bring to Front or Send to Back.
  • Group or ungroup objects to work with them more easily. Right-click selected objects, point to Grouping, and then click Group, Ungroup, or Regroup.
  • You can draw lines, rectangles, arcs, and polygons on a worksheet or chart by using the buttons on the Drawing toolbar.
  • You can draw multiple objects in succession by double-clicking a drawing button on the Drawing toolbar. When you're finished drawing objects, press ESC.
  • To keep the proportions of an object constant when drawing or resizing it, hold down SHIFT while dragging a corner.
  • To draw an arrow or line that is exactly horizontal, vertical, or at a 45-degree angle, hold down SHIFT while you draw.
  • To draw an exact square, hold down SHIFT while you draw a rectangle.
  • To draw perfect circles or segments of circles, hold down SHIFT while you draw ovals and arcs.
  • You can paste a picture of a cell, chart, or graphic object into another application. Select it, and then hold down SHIFT while clicking Copy Picture on the Edit menu.
Applies to:
Excel 2003