How Do I Change the X-Axis Range in Excel Charts?

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Selecting a separate X-axis range lets you use data from anywhere in your workbook.
Image Credit: Image courtesy of Microsoft

When you first create a chart in Excel 2013, the result might appear confusing -- with some chart types, most notably line charts, Excel displays the X axis as "1, 2, 3..." regardless of the data you actually want as your X axis. For charts where you want to specify an X-axis range of numbers, you first need to switch to a scatter chart and then select the range.

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Step 1

Switch to a scatter chart.
Image Credit: Image courtesy of Microsoft

Select your chart and pick a scatter chart style from the Insert tab to change the chart type.

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Step 2

Select an X/Y range or press "Edit" to select separate ranges.
Image Credit: Image courtesy of Microsoft

Open the "Design" tab and press "Select Data." If you have two adjacent columns of data -- X-axis data on the left, Y-axis on the right -- select them and press "OK" to remake the chart using your X-axis range, and skip the following step.

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Alternatively, if the X-axis data you want to use isn't situated directly to the left of the Y-axis data, press "Edit" in the Legend Entries section.

Step 3

Select separate X and Y ranges.
Image Credit: Image courtesy of Microsoft

Select the X and Y ranges separately using the Series X Values and Series Y Values fields. Press "OK" on both dialog boxes to remake the chart.

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Step 4

Add axis titles.
Image Credit: Image courtesy of Microsoft

Press "Add Chart Element" on the Design tab to add "Axis Titles" for each axis, clarifying their relationship.

Step 5

Name the titles.
Image Credit: Image courtesy of Microsoft

Type in an axis title's name by hand, or select it, type "=" in the Formula Bar and click a cell that bears the axis's name.

Tip

If you plan to add additional series to your chart later and want to use a legend, you should rename the original series, because the applied default name won't match its actual meaning after following these steps. In the above images, for example, the series name defaults to "Green," while a more accurate name would be "Red/Green Series 1."

To rename it, press the Legend Entries "Edit" button on the Select Data Source window and enter a new name -- or link to a cell bearing the name -- in the Series Name field. To add a legend, select it from the "Add Chart Element" menu.

Warning

The Legend Entries "Edit" button on the Select Data Source window is the only way to instruct Excel to chart non-adjacent columns of numbers as an X/Y pair. If you try to hold "Ctrl" and select both columns on the main Select Data Source window, you end up with two separate lines, each with a Y axis and no X axis.

Scatter charts allow you to use a range of numbers in the X axis, while line charts do not. If you want to use a range of cells containing words in your X axis, however, a scatter chart won't work. Scatter charts ignore non-numerical cells. Instead, pick a line chart, bar chart or other type. If your X-axis word labels aren't directly to the left of your Y-axis values, use the second "Edit" button on the Select Data Source window -- located in the "Horizontal" section -- to pick the X-axis label range. <See Reference 3.>

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