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Line Chart Excel

MS Excel is one of the popular spreadsheet software with a wide range of powerful features. It also allows various ways to present data. We can represent or display our data in graphical formats using different worksheet objects, such as charts, images, shapes, etc. Line Charts are one of the great ways to represent our spreadsheet data in different analytical fields.

In this article, we discuss the line chart and creating a simple line chart with the help of step-by-step instructions and relevant screenshots.

What is a Line Chart in Excel?

By definition, "a line chart is a simple but powerful graphical object used to display a series of data points linked through straight lines, highlighting the significant changes over time."

Line charts are also termed as the Line Graph, Line Plot, Run Chart and Curve Chart. These charts are mainly used in science, analysis, and statistics to display the trends over a specified period. These charts are considered convenient as they display the supplied data and the respective trends very accurately. Line charts use data points in the form of markers because they typically link straight lines.

Components of Line Chart

Like the other essential charts, line charts also include the components like the X-axis, Y-axis, Legend, and Plot area:

  • X-Axis (Horizontal Axis): The x-axis is an independent variable of the line chart and typically displays periods.
  • Y-Axis (Vertical Axis): The y-axis is a dependent variable of the line chart and typically displays the data that we wish to track.
  • Legend: The legend represents a section with information about the tracked data, which usually help us to read and understand the plotted chart. A legend is mostly used when the plotted chart contains more than one line.
  • Plot Area: The area on which the entire line chart is plotted as per the given data is called Plot Area.
Line Chart Excel

Types of Line Charts

The following are the essential types of line charts in Excel:

  • Stacked Line
  • 100%Stacked Line
  • Line with Markers
  • Stacked Line with Markers
  • 100%Stacked Line with Markers
  • 3-D Line
Line Chart Excel

Stacked Line

Stacked line charts help to display different sets of points that have been connected using a single line. The lines drawn in this type of chart do not overlap. This is because the plotted lines are cumulative at each point. Furthermore, stacked line charts do not represent both positive and negative values simultaneously.

100%Stacked Line

100%stacked line charts are identical to the stacked line charts. It is a typical type of line chart where the plotted lines don't overlap and remain cumulative at each point. Additionally, the plotted lines depend upon the supplied data set. The y-axis always represents the data in percentage (%) in 100%stacked line charts.

Line with Markers

As the name suggests, these line charts have simple lines plotted as per the supplied data. However, the data points are highlighted using markers. The markers may vary depending on the configurations. They can be circles, triangles, squares, or any other shape, marking the plotted data.

Stacked Line with Markers

The stacked line chart represents various sets of points linked through a line, and when the corresponding data points are highlighted with markets, they are called stacked lines with markers.

100%Stacked Line with Markers

These types of line charts are almost similar to the 1005stacked line charts. However, unlike the 100%stacked line charts, the data sets are highlighted with markers in the 100%stacked line with markers charts.

3-D Line

The 3-D line charts are used to display data more clearly with 3-D visual effects. These types of charts are good to display various information all at once on the plot area.

Features of Line Charts

The following are some essential features of the line chart in Excel:

  • Line charts are simple to understand, which makes them a beneficial graphical representation in different analyses.
  • Line charts can display large sets of data on the plot area.
  • Line charts typically display the relationships amongst multiple data sets.
  • Line charts can represent both the positive and negative values.
  • Values in the line charts are drawn as points and connected using the line segments.
  • Line charts are beneficial in displaying changing trends over time.

How to create a Line Chart?

Creating a line chart is as simple as plotting any other chart type. We can include many lines and multiple data points for each category. However, it is always recommended to keep it as minimal as possible. Because of the several lines on the plot area, it becomes complex to understand the results when lines overlap.

Let us understand the step by step process of creating a line chart with the help of an example:

  • First, we need to enter the data in an Excel sheet and select or highlight the entire data we wish to use for the line chart.
    Let us consider the following Excel sheet where we have monthly sales data and the projected target next to it, as shown below:
    Line Chart Excel
    Here, we select all the cells of a range A2:C14 to reflect its values in a line chart effectively.
    Line Chart Excel
  • Once the effective data range is selected, we need to navigate to the Insert tab in the toolbar from the top of the Excel window. Next, we must select the desired line chart from the drop-down menu next to the line chart button under the group/category Charts.
    In our example, we select the Line chart with markers in the 2-D line section, as shown in the following image:
    Line Chart Excel
  • As soon as we select a specific chart by clicking on it, it will be instantly inserted into an active Excel sheet. Alternately, we can hover on specific chart types to preview our selected data in a corresponding chart format. According to our example data, the line chart looks like the following image:
    Line Chart Excel
    In the above image, the line chart in our spreadsheet displays the trend for two different sales (i.e., Actual Monthly Sales and Targeted Monthly Sales). The blue series of data points represents the trend for Actual Monthly Sales, the orange series of data points represent s the targeted Monthly Sales. Furthermore, the axis values for each sale are displayed on the left side of the graph.
    Once the line chart is inserted, we can customize the elements of the charts as desired.

Customizing a Line Chart

Although Excel default chart styles and formatting are good, we can make custom customizations as desired. The simplest method to quickly change the style of the inserted line charts is to use built-n chart styles. Once we have inserted a line chart, we can navigate the Design tab and access a wide range of available chart styles. We can see a preview of each style by hovering the mouse over them.

Line Chart Excel

Apart from the existing chart styles, we can customize almost everything manually, including various chart elements. Some essential customizations are as follows:

Adding a Line Chart Title

When we insert a line chart in our sheet, the chart title is also inserted. It is usually located on the top area of the chart with the text 'Chart Title'. However, we can edit the text and enter the desired title. For this, we need to click on the graph object 'Chart Title' and then type the title suitable for the supplied chart data.

In our example line chart, we have entered the title 'Monthly Sales Data (2020-21)', as shown below:

Line Chart Excel

Adding Annotations

Adding annotations in a line chart can help in making the graphic presentation more meaningful. It can draw a little focus on any specific part of the information about the inserted chart. To insert an annotation within the chart, we need first to select the specific chart and then click on the Insert tab on the ribbon. Next, we must select the option Text Box from the shortcuts under the Insert tab.

Line Chart Excel

After clicking on the Text Box icon, we need to click on the area within the chart where we wish to insert an annotation. It will enable a text box in the specific area, and we can type the desired annotation using the keyboard.

Line Chart Excel

Adjusting Legend Position

We can change the position of the legend according to our requirements. For this, we must right-cling on the existing legend and select the option 'Format Legend' from the list.

Line Chart Excel

It will display formatting options for the legend position. We can mark the radio button of the desired position, and the legend will be moved to that location to the plot area.

Line Chart Excel

After we select the option 'Right', the legend is moved to the right side of the chart, as shown below:

Line Chart Excel

Scaling/ Changing Chart Axes

When we insert a chart in Excel, it automatically inserts random axis values nearest the data supplied. However, we may sometimes need to start our axis at some certain value. For this, we can format the axis accordingly.

To format the chart axis, we need to select the corresponding axis and right-click on it to access additional menu options. Next, we need to click on the option 'Format Axis' from the list.

Line Chart Excel

The above option will display formatting preferences for the selected axis where we can set or configure minimum and maximum values for the axis, as shown below:

Line Chart Excel

We set the min axis value to zero in our example data, and the axis now starts at 0 instead of 1000, as shown below:

Line Chart Excel

The chart axis should be changed carefully to simplify the overall presentation of the data points and the chart.

Formatting Lines in a Chart

We can change the default formatting of the lines in the chart. To change the appearance of the lines in a chart, we need to select a specific line and right-click on it to access menu options. Next, we need to select the option 'Format Data Series'.

Line Chart Excel

Next, we need to select the 'Line' tab (as shown in the below image). After that, we will see the variety of formatting options to modify the appearance of the selected line. It looks like this:

Line Chart Excel

Using the options in the above image, we can use line formatting options to change line colour, transparency, line style, width, etc.

Adding/ Modifying Markers

When we go to the Chart section of the line chart, we see different types of line charts. Some line charts have markers by default, and we insert any of them to get the chart with markers quickly. However, if we insert a simple line chart, we can add markers manually on data points.

To insert markets in a line chart, we must select a specific line and right-click on it. Next, we need to select the option 'Format Data Series'.

Line Chart Excel

After clicking the option to format the data series, Excel displays some advanced formatting options for the selected line. We need to click on the 'Marker' tab and select 'Automatic' to get the default markers or 'Built-in' to get the customized markers.

Line Chart Excel

We can scroll down and access more formatting options for markers. In the below image, we have inserted customized markers in our example:

Line Chart Excel

Adding and Formatting Data Labels

Adding the data labels can be helpful to get accurate information for the effective values in a line chart. We can add the data labels on each marker of a line. For this, we need to click and select the specific line or the marker and right-click on it to access additional options. Next, we must select the option 'Add Data Label' from the list.

Line Chart Excel

We need to perform this process for each marker separately to add data labels on few markers. Besides, we can select the entire line to add labels on all markers at once.

Once the data points are added in a line chart, we do not need to assume or read the data points values from the x-axis or y-axis, depending on the chart style. However, adding data labels on all markers is not recommended when the chart has several lines on the plot area.

Once we have added data labels on few markers in our example data, it looks like this:

Line Chart Excel

Using the data labels, we have highlighted the two highest sales of the target sales and the two lowest sales of the actual sales data.

Moving the Line Chart

Moving a chart within the same sheet and to another sheet in the same spreadsheet is also possible. It helps to separate the visual representation of supplied data from the text data recorded in cells.

If we want to move or reallocate the inserted chart in the same sheet, we can click on a chart's blank area and drag it to the desired place.

If we want to move a chart to another or a new sheet, we must first select a specific chart. Next, we need to navigate to the ribbon and select the Move Chart option under the Desig tab.

Line Chart Excel

As soon as we click the Move Chart option, Excel launches a corresponding dialogue box, as shown in the following image:

Line Chart Excel

Here, we must select the option 'New Sheet' and then select the desired sheet or enter a name in the box. The selected chart will be moved to a selected sheet instantly.

Line Chart Excel

Apart from this, if we want to use the chart in other programs such as MS Word or PowerPoint, we can click on the specific chart, copy/ cut it and paste it into the corresponding program.

Adding Chart Elements

When we insert a chart in an Excel sheet, some essential chart elements are added by default. Furthermore, Excel also allows users to insert more elements if required. To insert chart elements, we must click on the Plus Icon (+) on chart tools from the right side of the chart and select the desired element from the list.

Line Chart Excel

We can enable or disable the chart elements by marking/ unmarking the checkboxes in the list. Additionally, we can access more features of the specific chart elements by clicking the arrow icon next to the element name.

Line Chart Excel

Changing a Line Chart Type

Excel also allows us to change the inserted chart to another chart type instantly without performing the entire process of chart insertion. We can insert any of the desired line charts or other charts.

To change a line chart type that we have inserted, we need to select the specific chart and click on the Design tab. Next, we need to click the shortcut 'Change Chart Type' from under the Design tab.

Line Chart Excel

After clicking the 'Change Chart Type' shortcut, Excel displays the dialogue box with all the chart types. It looks like this:

Line Chart Excel

In the above image, we must click the Line Chart option and select the specific Line Chart we wish to insert. Once the desired chart is selected, we must click the OK button. This will replace the previous line chart, and we will get a new type of line chart. In our example, we have replaced the inserted 'Line chart with markers' with the simple 'Line Chart' in the 2-D section.

Line Chart Excel

The chart type has been changed in the above image, and thus the markers have been removed.

Saving a Line Chart as Picture

Unfortunately, Excel does not provide any direct way to save the inserted Excel chart as an image or picture. However, there are some alternative methods. One of the easiest ways is to copy the chart from Excel and paste it into an image processing program like MS Paint. After pasting the image in MS Paint, we can save it in any popular image/picture format, like PNG, JPEG, BMP, etc.

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