How to Turn Excel Spreadsheet Data Into Graphs

By Darrin Koltow

Making Excel spreadsheet data into graphs, which Excel's help file refers to as charts, involves the following general steps: identifying which columns of data you want to include in the graph, selecting a graph type, then running the command for creating that graph type. Adding new data to existing graphs involves a similar process. Understanding how to create graphs from your spreadsheet data enables you to see patterns in your data that lists of numbers don't reveal.

Make New Graph

Step 1

Open an Excel spreadsheet with existing data in a tabular format. For example, your data table might have a column with student names, which are the labels for the data. Another column in the table could contain the test scores for each student.

Step 2

Resave your spreadsheet under a new name so that you don't corrupt your original data.

Step 3

Click the top most cell of the column containing your data's labels, then drag down to the bottom cell in the column. Perform this step only if your labels are to the right of your data column. Excel will not display your graph correctly if the data is to the left of the labels. Press "Control" and "X" simultaneously, then click the blank cell directly to the left of the top cell containing the graph's data. Press "Control" and "V" simultaneously to paste the label data.

Step 4

Click the top cell of the labels column, including the column header, then drag down and right until the cursor is over the bottom cell in the data column. This selects the data for the graph.

Step 5

Click the "Insert" menu heading, then click one of the following buttons: "Column," "Line," "Pie," "Bar," "Area," or "Scatter." The "Column" and "Line" graph types are good for your first graphs because they're most commonly used, and thus the most immediately recognizable representations of data. Excel will create the graph type you chose.

Add a Series

Step 1

Open a spreadsheet with an existing graph, and with a column of data you'd like to add to the graph. For example, your existing graph might show monthly sales revenue for one sales team, and your new column of data might show sales data for another sales team.

Step 2

Right-click the graph then click the "Select data" item.

Step 3

Click the gridded button at the right of the control labeled "Data range." This tells Excel that you'll select the data for the revised table.

Step 4

Click the top left cell of the table you want to include in the graph, then drag down and right until the cursor is over the bottom, last cell of the data. Release the mouse.

Step 5

Click "OK" button to make Excel update the graph with the new column's data.

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