Software

How-to change perspective in an Excel chart


Oh my, I had no idea you could do this with an Excel chart! What am I raving about? You can reverse the order of the axis values. You have to see this in action to appreciate it. First, look at a simple column graph that compares sales for the past four years: 2003 through 2006. The picture's rather dismal—sales are going down.

june20075fig1r.jpg

Now, look again. The second graph displays the same information but conveys an entirely different message. In fact, it's so different that you might find it deceptive!

june20075fig2r.jpg

All I did was reverse the order of the axis values as follows:

  1. Right-click the horizontal axis values.
  2. Choose Format Axis from the resulting context menu.
  3. Click the Scale tab.
  4. Check (or uncheck) the Categories in Reverse Order option.

I'm not suggesting that you use this feature to fool anyone. Rather, it's a warning. You might have a good reason for reversing the order, but be careful. If the readers aren't paying attention, they could easily misinterpret the chart. On the other hand, let it be a warning to you to review graphs carefully, especially if you didn't prepare them. What looks good might not be so great!

About

Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

2 comments
edglock21
edglock21

The last point is the most valuable - reminding the READER to review what he's reading (and might think he's seeing).

ssharkins
ssharkins

I totally agree. I was just dumbfounded when I realized that what I "perceived" was totally wrong! I think we tend to expect from folks, what we put out there ourselves. If we're honest, we expect honesty. I don't want to put us into philosophy mode, but this simple feature could be misused. Most of us think of Office as a tool to get our work done, not a weapon of deception. Of course, that's not the feature's fault. I'm sure many find this feature useful, but being forewarned is always good. Just call me stunned, that's all. ;)