How many data series are in a chart?

Section: Excel Basics Tutorial: Excel Chart TypesExcel Chart Types: Pie, Column, Line, Bar, Area, and ScatterThis tutorial discusses the most common chart types in Excel: pie Cha

How many data series are in a chart?

Section: Excel Basics   Tutorial: Excel Chart Types

Excel Chart Types: Pie, Column, Line, Bar, Area, and Scatter

This tutorial discusses the most common chart types in Excel: pie Chart, column chart, line chart, bar chart, area chart, and scatter chart. We also mention other supported chart types. For related tutorials, see our Chart & Graph Information Center.

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This tutorial contains affiliate links. Read our disclosure policy to learn more.

Tutorial Sections

  • Pie Chart
  • Column Chart
  • Line Chart
  • Bar Chart
  • Area Chart
  • Scatter Chart
  • Other Chart Types

The Pie Chart

A pie chart displays the values of a single data series as proportional slices of a pie. A data series is a row or column of numbers. we've outline a single data series, with headers, below.

Example of a single data series in an Excel worksheet

Single Data Series

Besides the 2-D pie chart, other sub-types include Pie Chart in 3-D, Exploded Pie Chart, and Exploded Pie in 3-D. Two more charts, Pie of Pie and Bar of Pie, add a second pie or bar which enlarge certain values in the first pie.

2-D pie chart in Excel
3-D pie chart in Excel
2-D exploded pie chart in Excel

The heading of the data row or column becomes the chart's title and categories are listed in a legend. Many customization options are available. For more detailed information about the pie chart, see Microsoft Excel: The PIE Chart.

The Column Chart

The column chart shines when comparing multiple series, as outlined in our worksheet below. Notice that we include the row and column headings but NOT the totals in our selection.

worksheet image showing multiple data series

Multiple Data Series

The column chart makes it easy to see how a single series changes over time, and how multiple series compare with their unique colors. Cylinders, pyramids, and cones can be used instead of bars.

Clustered column chart

Clustered Column Chart

Stacked column chart

Stacked Column Chart

Other column charts include the Stacked Column Chart, the 100% Stacked Column Chart, and three-dimensional versions of each chart. For detailed information, see Microsoft Excel: The Column Chart.

A Tutorial

The Bar Chart

The clustered bar chart is like a column chart lying on its side. The horizontal axis typically contains the numeric values. The first chart below is the bar chart for our single series, Flowers.

When to use a bar chart versus a column chart depends on the type of data and user preference. But bar charts do tend to display and compare large numbers of data series better than other chart types. See our detailed tutorial on bar charts.

bar chart
100% stacked bar chart

Excel provides all bar charts in 3-D, including the Stacked Bar Chart and 100% Stacked Bar Chart, shown above in 3-D, which shows a value's portion of 100%. Instead of bars, cylinders, pyramids, and cones are available in newer Excel versions.

The Line Chart

The Line Chart is especially useful in displaying trends and can effectively plot single or multiple data series. Markerscircles, squares, triangles, or other shapes which mark the data pointsare optional.

Typically the vertical axis (Y-axis) displays numeric values and the horizontal axis (X-axis) displays time or other category.

line chart without markers for multiple series of data

Though the standard line chart is the most popular, the Stacked Line Chart and the 100% Stacked Line Chart, with or without markers, can be created. A 3-D Line Chart is available, but does not display data well.

A Tutorial

The Area Chart

Area Charts are like Line Charts except that the area below the various plot lines is solid.

Area Charts are used primarily to show trends over time or other category. Other area charts include the Stacked Area Chart and 100% Stacked Area Chart.

area chart plotting multiple series
stacked area chart

In many cases, the 2-D area chart displays multiple data series poorly as lesser values can be completely hidden.

3-D area chart

In the first chart above, Flowers is hidden and only a wee bit of Trees peaks through. This problem does not occur in the Stacked Area Chart. For more details and to see more examples of area charts, see Excel: the Area Chart.

Each area chart comes in 2-D, and true 3-D format with X, Y, and Z axes. Our 3-D Area Chart shown is effective, but depending on the data, smaller values may be hidden.

The Scatter Chart

The scatter chart observes the relationship between two variables. The scatter chart is called the XY Chart because its data points are the intersection of two values on the X and Y-axis.

worksheet with two data series and values for 12 months

Scatter charts come with or without markers, and data points can be connected with smooth or straight lines. In general, markers work well when the number of data points is small, and smooth lines are often used with a large number of data points. See Microsoft Excel: The Scatter Chart for more information.

scatter chart with only markers
scatter chart with smooth lines, no markers

Sometimes scatter charts with lines can be confusing if the line zig-zags and crosses itself. See Scatter Charts with Lines to understand why this happens and how to fix it.

The series pair has a Positive Correlation if they increase similarly, and a Negative Correlation if they both decrease in like manner. Otherwise, they have No Correlation.

Other Chart Types

Excel offers other charts such as Stock, Surface, Doughnut, Bubble, and Radar.

image of menu presented of all available charts

To see a menu of all available chart types in newer versions of Excel, click the down arrow by "Charts" in the Charts section of the ribbon's Insert Tab.

Customizing Excel Charts

affiliate link

Customizing a chart can take a long time unless a logical order is followed. When Microsoft revised its Office products for the 2007 version, it greatly enhanced the charting function. In some ways there are too many options.

We have created a tutorial that explains the customizing options for charts in newer versions of Excel, along with a recommended order in which to proceed.

If you create a lot of charts, we like Meaningful Graphs: Informative Excel Charts (affiliate link). This book is well-organized and clearly explains the principles and "how to" of good chart design.

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