Need an impressive graph, quick? Use Excel—but you already know that. You probably also know about the Chart Wizard. Select the data you want to graph, launch the Chart Wizard, respond to the wizard’s prompts, and Excel embeds a graph in the current sheet. That’s about as easy as it gets, but there’s still an easier way. Select the data you want to graph and press [F11]. Like magic, Excel embeds a graph on its own tab. There’s nothing easier, unless you can produce graphs by twitching your nose.

As quick as [F11] is, it isn’t perfect. The feature defaults to a column chart and that won’t always be the type of graph you want. You can tweak the finished chart, but that takes time. You might find the Chart Wizard more efficient, in the long run.

If you find [F11]’s default too limiting, change it. Even if you have to tweak the results a bit, at least you’ll start out with the right type of chart. In Excel 2003, change the default chart type as follows:

  1. Open the Chart Type dialog box by right-clicking a chart and choosing Chart Type from the resulting context menu.
  2. Click the chart type in the left pane. You can also change the subtype.
  3. Click the Set As Default Chart button at the bottom of the dialog.
  4. Click OK to confirm the change.
  5. Click OK to close the dialog box and return to the chart.

In Excel 2007 and 2010, do the following:

  1. On the Insert tab, click the Charts dialog launcher (the small arrow at the bottom-right of the Charts group). Or, right-click a chart and choose Change Chart Type.
  2. Choose the chart type (and subtype).
  3. Click the Set As Default Chart button.
  4. Click OK.

Changing the default type is so easy that you might do so frequently, as needs change. The Chart Wizard will also default to the new chart type.