How to Create a Legend for a Spreadsheet

By C.D. Crowder

Legends are used in spreadsheets to provide further detail on colors and symbols used on charts and within your spreadsheet. Microsoft Excel provides you with a quick way to create legends during the chart creation process. You can also create separate legends to use with any spreadsheet data, not just data represented in charts. Legends take only minutes to create and will make your spreadsheet much easier to understand and use.

Chart Legend

Step 1

Create a chart from existing data within a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. Note that legends aren’t recommended for use with pie charts. Labels should be used instead.

Step 2

Go to “Insert” and select “Chart.”

Step 3

Select your chart type. Press “Next.”

Step 4

Select your data range. Either enter the range of cells manually or press the small button to the right of the range box. Highlight the cells you wish to include in your chart. Choose the “Series” tab to further customize your data range. Press “Next.”

Step 5

Enter a title for your chart, X axis and Y axis.

Step 6

Select the “Legend” tab. Check “Show Legend” and choose where to place the legend.

Step 7

Press “Next” and choose where to place your chart. Press “Finish” to complete the process.

Spreadsheet Legend

Step 1

Select a range of cells to place in your chart. The range should be near your data, such as the top, bottom or sides of the data.

Step 2

Type the word “Legend” in the first cell of your range.

Step 3

Type each item you wish to include in your legend. This should be a description of each item, not the symbol or color.

Step 4

Highlight each item cell with the color used within your spreadsheet data if your legend is based upon colors. Select the cell and select the “Highlight” button on the “Formatting” toolbar. Use the drop-down arrow beside the “Highlight” button to choose different colors.

Step 5

Enter the appropriate symbol beside each item cell in your legend if you used symbols instead of colors. Symbols often include arrows, dollar symbols, pound signs or asterisks.

Tips & Warnings

  • You can move and change your legend after it’s created through the chart wizard. Right click the legend to edit it or your chart.
  • Never leave out a color or symbol when creating the legend from scratch. This will make your spreadsheet data confusing.