Creating charts may not be a daily chore for your Excel students, but it’s a skill many of them need to develop. Sooner or later, they’ll be in charge of producing a report that just begs for a visual representation of data—or a boss or coworker will ask them to slap together “a quick chart” for a presentation. So even if you don’t devote a lot of time to teaching charting techniques, take your classes for a spin through the Chart Wizard and hit the highlights. Here’s a look at how you can walk your students through the process of building a simple, effective chart.

Sample files needed
For demonstration purposes, you’ll need to set up a worksheet containing the data you’ll be charting. We’ll use a sample worksheet that contains two years of annual sales totals for three periodicals—books, magazines, and newspapers. Very basic—but simple is best for introductory purposes.

You can create a simple worksheet like this one to demo the Chart Wizard.

Chart-building basics

  1. Select all the cells containing the data you want to chart.
  2. Click the Chart Wizard button on the Standard toolbar. The Chart Wizard will present a selection of chart types, each of which includes several subtypes. If none of these options suits your needs, you can click the Custom Types tab to access a list of specialized chart types. For now, we’ll settle for the default selection in the Standard Types tab, which is a simple column chart.

The Chart Wizard first will offer a selection of chart types.

  1. Click Next, and the Chart Wizard will present a screen verifying the range of data you want to include in your chart. You can change the range if necessary—just click in your worksheet and drag to select the appropriate cells.

This screen lets you verify the range of data you’re charting.

  1. Click Next again, and the Chart Wizard will present options that govern which elements are included in your chart. For instance, you can click the Titles tab and enter a title for the chart and for the chart axes. We won’t change any of these elements in this example, but you may want to show your class what options are available.

Use these options to customize the elements in your chart.

  1. Click Next once more to advance to the Chart Wizard’s final screen. Here you can specify whether to insert the chart on its own chart sheet or embed it on a worksheet. If you select the first option, type a new sheet name in the As New Sheet: text box. If you select the second option, just use the As Object In: drop-down list to choose the sheet where you want the chart to appear. (The current sheet is the default.) After you make a selection, click Finish. Excel will create your new chart.

Excel lets you embed a new chart or create its own chart sheet.

Be sure to point out to your students that after they’ve created a chart, they can still modify any specification they made while running the Chart Wizard. The Chart menu and the Chart toolbar, which appear whenever a chart or chart sheet is selected, include options that correspond to the choices the Wizard offers. They can also click the Chart Wizard button to run the wizard again and revise their original choices.
Do your students seem to flounder with some charting concepts? If so, sendus a note and tell us how you help them grasp the basics.