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Charting Tips


Amber MacArthur, Bill Jelen, Leo LaPorte, Andy Walker on the set of Call for Help on TechTV Canada.

As mentioned on the show, you can get a free chapter a week from the new book by signing up here.

Creating Charts in Excel is easy. The first demo is how to create a pie chart. Select your data. You should have category names in column A and headings in row 1. From the menu, select Insert - Chart.

Select Pie from the Chart types listbox. Choose one of the six standard pie charts.

Click Next until you get to step 4. In step 4, you can specify that the chart should go on a new sheet.

Many things on a chart can be customized. Right-click the pie and choose Format Data Series.

On the Data Labels tab, you can add the Category Name and Percentage.

If you have data labels that are crashing into each other, sometimes changing the angle of the pie chart can solve the problem. Right-click the pie and choose Format Data Series again. This time, on the Options tab, increase the Angle of First Slice to 150 degrees. This gets the smallest pie slices in the lower right corner.

Donut Charts
Pie Charts can only show one series of data. If you have two series of data to show, use a Donut Chart.

Create a Chart with One Click
Highlight your data including headings. Hit the F11 key to create the default chart.

Change the default Chart type used with F11
To change if you get a pie or a bar chart with the F11 key, first make a chart with the proper settings. Highlight the chart. From the menu, select Chart - Chart TYpe. In the lower left corner of the dialog, choose "Set as Default Type".

Fill Effects
Instead of the boring grey background in charts, you can create cool gradients.

To create a gradient, right-click in the middle of nothing in the chart. Select Format Plot Area. Choose the Fill Effects Button.

Set up a two-color gradient on the Fill Effects tab.

The last trick in the segment was replacing a single bar with a picture. To do this, you first left click on a bar. Then, wait, and do a second single click on the bar. This will select just one data point. Right click on the bar and select Format Data Point. On the fill effects tab, choose a picture. Browse for a picture for that bar. Indicate if you want it to be stretched or stacked. Repeat for each bar. The result: a chart with flags instead of bars.

For the BEST TV show on technology, check out Call for Help.

This tip was originally published on January 21, 2005 and aired on TechTV on February 16, 2005. The permanent URL for this page is

If you are looking for show notes from another episode, visit my complete list of TechTV appearances. Consulting can be hired to implement this concept, or many other cool applications, with your data. provides examples of Visual Basic procedures for illustration only, without warranty either expressed or implied, including but not limited to the implied warranties of merchantability and/or fitness for a particular purpose. The Visual Basic procedures on this web site are provided "as is" and we do not guarantee that they can be used in all situations.


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