How to Create a Legend for a Spreadsheet

Image Credit: Rawpixel/iStock/GettyImages

Data has become crucial to just about everything businesses do today. However, rows of text and numbers can fail to get your point across. Pie charts and bar graphs are the perfect way to illustrate the information you collect, and it's easy enough to create those in Excel. When you make a graph, you need a legend to go with it. The legend usually lets the reader know exactly what the various colors in the chart mean. The colors could represent various years, age groups, genders or any other segment of data. Creating a legend in Excel is easy once you have the chart in place.

Legend Versus Legend Key

Before you can create a chart legend, it helps to know the difference between a legend and a legend key – two features of Microsoft Excel. Whether it's a chart or graph legend, the legend is the item off to the left, right, top or bottom that explains the data in the chart. So, if you're showing the difference between 2017 and 2018 results, for instance, that will be your legend. The legend key refers to each item in the chart. If you're comparing iPhone users in your customer base to Android users, iPhone users might be colored blue and Android users red. Blue and red are the legend keys in this instance because they are items within the legend.

Creating an Excel Chart Legend

To create a legend in Excel, start by clicking on the chart or graph. You'll see a plus sign on the right. Click on this, and a Chart Elements menu pops up. Check the box next to "Legend." A chart or graph legend will immediately appear. In some cases, that's all you have to do, but sometimes you need to update the words assigned to the legend.

Making a Color-Coded Calendar

To rename entries in a legend in Excel, click the chart, choose "Chart Filters" and click on "Select Data." Choose the entry that needs to be changed and select "Edit." You can then type in a new name for that part of the chart legend. You can move the legend around by selecting the chart, clicking on the "Design" tab, choosing "Add Chart Element and Legend" and then choosing a new position for the legend. If you need to remove the legend after you create it, select "None" in the "Add Chart Element" section of the "Design" tab.