Area Chart in Excel
MS Excel is one of the most popular and powerful spreadsheet programs with distinct features and functions. Using charts to represent the data graphically is one of such great features in MS Excel. There are different types of charts in Excel, and choosing the right one is sometimes difficult unless we know all the Excel charts.
Area Chart in Excel is one of the few charts that help display the graphical representation of data in Excel. It is typically plotted to showcase the data, which depicts the Time-series relationship. This article discusses the brief introduction of the Area Chart, including its types, examples, and the step-by-step tutorial of creating it in an Excel sheet.
What is an Area Chart in Excel?
An area chart is usually defined as a data visualization feature of MS Excel that collectively showcases the rate of change of one or more variables over a defined period. It typically helps measure the trends of different data sets over time by filling up the area between the x-axis and the line segments using colours. In short, an area chart is a specific line chart with the areas below the lines filled with colours.
When working with multiple line segments, the chart may display a different colour in the area between two consecutive line segments. Being a specific variation of the line chart, the area chart emphasizes the "gaps" between the data and the axis and is mostly used to compare data groups.
The area chart can be displayed in the following two ways:
Components of Area Chart
There are five major components of the Area Chart in Excel, as listed below:
Uses of Area Chart
Though there are many scenarios when we can use Area Chart in Excel; however, the following are some of the most common uses of area charts:
Area Chart Types
There are three main types of Area charts in MS Excel: Simple Area Chart, Stacked Area Chart, and 100% Stacked Area Chart.
Simple Area Chart
Simple Area Chart is plotted so that the coloured segments of effective chart areas overlap with one another. The data in a simple area chart are drawn on top of one another, making the graph's coloured areas intersect.
It is good to plot a simple area chart with the smallest values at last place, making it visible on the top of other plotted data. Besides, if we plot the smallest data areas first, the larger data areas will overlap the smallest areas and make them completely invisible. However, we can use the transparency feature to make all the charts partially visible. This way, none of the chart areas are hidden.
Stacked Area Chart
A stacked Area Chart is a typical area chart that displays the data plots by combining the data groups to become an extension of one another. In simple words, the coloured segments (data plots) are drawn on top of each other.
We must subtract the upper plotted data from the data of the previous segment while taking accurate data values on the Y-axis of the front (or last) segment in the Stacked Area Charts. This type of area chart is mostly used to highlight changes between categories. However, it is somewhat difficult to compare the relative placement of data points in a stacked area chart.
100% Stacked Area Chart
100% Stacked Area Chart is an extended version of the stacked area chart in Excel. It is almost similar to a stacked area chart with one major change: the vertical axis scale in the 100% stacked area chart is represented as a percentage of the whole data.
The area segment in the 100% stacked area charts typically consumes the whole of the chart area. This type of area chart is primarily used to calculate or determine the percentage estimate of data trends. However, while reading or analyzing trends on these charts, we need to further calculate before concluding.
All these charts are plotted in a 2-D format; however, we can select the 3-D version of any charts from the Chart section. Based on a 3-D format, the area charts are named 3-D Area Chart, Stacked 3-D Area Chart, and 100% Stacked 3-D Area Chart. The only difference is that the 3-D area chart contains three axes, such as X, Y and Z. Therefore, users/ readers can also see the top and side view of the Area Charts.
How to create an Area Chart in Excel?
Since there are three different types of area charts in Excel, we need to understand those using three different examples and their respective steps to insert them into Excel:
Example 1: Creating a Simple Area Chart
We need to perform the following steps to create a simple area chart in Excel:
Example 2: Creating a Stacked Area Chart
We need to perform the following steps to create a stacked area chart in Excel:
Example 3: Creating a 100% Stacked Area Chart
We need to perform the following steps to create a 100% stacked area chart in Excel:
This way, we can create three different types of area charts in Excel, which mainly help to show trends and not value-wise data representation.
Customizing an Area Chart in Excel
Customizing the Area Chart and its elements is similar to modifying other charts present in Excel. Additionally, Excel charts can be edited or customized through different means. The following are some essential methods to customize an Area Chart in Excel with ease:
It is the most basic feature of modifying or editing any element of charts in Excel. Whenever we double-click on any chart item, it displays a side panel with different editing options relevant to the selected element. Once the side panel is displayed, we can select or activate another element with just a click and get its respective editing options. We don't need to double-click again and again.
The side panel consists of element-specific editing options and some typical formatting options like editing colours and effects. The side panel will usually pop up from the right side of the active Excel window, as shown in the image below:
In Excel 2010 and earlier versions, we get a pop-up window instead of the side panel.
Right-Click (Context) Menu
Another typical method to access customizing options for a chart and its element is right-clicking using the mouse. When we right-click on any element or chart itself, we get the contextual menu. The contextual menu or the context menu displays some quick options to modify basic element stylings like colours and other formattings. Furthermore, we can activate the side panel for a detailed option view.
To access a side panel from the context menu, we need to select an option that starts with the text 'Format'. For instance, the following image has the 'Format Data Series' option, starting with the text Format.
Similarly, we can get other menu options based on the selected element in an Area Chart.
In Excel 2013 or later versions, we also get an option to use Chart Shortcuts. It is identified by the Plus (+) sign and is located on the right side of the plotted chart by default. It contains several chart elements with the checkboxes before their names. We can insert/ remove specific elements, apply built-in chart styles or colour sets, and filter values by marking or unmarking the respective checkboxes.
The best part of using the Chart Shortcuts is that we can see a preview or effect of options that we wish to apply as soon as we hover onto the checkboxes or the options. In the following image, we only move a cursor on the Data Labels option, and the labels preview is displayed on the chart even before applying them.
The Ribbon is the most basic area to access almost all the Excel options. After the chart has been inserted, Excel automatically inserts some new tab(s) on Ribbon. The inserted tabs only contain specific chart related options under the category CHART TOOLS. The category further consists of two tabs, namely the DESIGN tab and the FORMAT tab. However, in Excel 2010 and earlier, there are three tabs where the LAYOUT is an additional tab. The layout tab and its options are merged under the DESIGN tab in later Excel versions.
The DESIGN tab mainly includes adding chart elements, layouts, colours, styles, and other essential options to modify data or even the chart itself. On the other side, the FORMAT tab contains some generic options common with many other objects.
Changing Layouts and Styles of Area Chart at Once
Preset layouts and built-in styling options are always good options to change layouts and styling or the area chart quickly. We can select the desired styling or a specific layout from the DESIGN tab under the CHART TOOLS. Alternately, we can access the same by clicking the brush icon from the Chart shortcuts.
The quick layout option looks like this:
The styles can be selected directly from the section displayed below:
Changing Chart Type
Changing a chart is an easier process in MS Excel. Once we have inserted a chart, we need to select the chart and navigate the DESIGN tab. Here, we need to select the option 'Change Chart Type', as shown in the below image:
After selecting the specific option, we will see all the chart types. We can select any desired charts from the list, and the corresponding chart will be instantly inserted into a sheet. Also, when we move a cursor to any specific chart, we will see a respective preview even before clicking on it.
This way, we can change between different area charts or even with an entirely new chart type.
Moving an Area Chart to another Sheet
When we create a new chart in Excel, it is created in the same sheet as the selected data. However, Excel allows us to move a chart into another sheet within the same workbook. For this, we need to click the Move Chart option under the DESIGN tab on the Ribbon. Alternately, we can select the Move Chart option from the right-click menu of the selected chart. However, we must right-click on an empty area of the chart to access the appropriate chart options.
After clicking the Move Chart option, we get the Move Chart dialogue box with the following two options:
We can choose any of the desired options and click the OK button. The selected chart will be moved to a corresponding sheet instantly.
Advantages of using the Area Chart in Excel
The following are the advantages of using the Area Chart in Excel:
Disadvantages of using the Area Chart in Excel
The following are the advantages of using the Area Chart in Excel:
Important Things to Remember when using the Area Chart