Continuing the theme from my last post on sparklines, a chart really is worth a thousand numbers. In this post I’ll show you how quick and easy it is to create full charts. This post has been updated with the new chart sidebar, which is much easier and intuitive to use than before.

We’ll look at:

  • Creating and inserting a chart
  • Chart editor
    • Data
      • Chart types
      • Stacking
      • Data Range
      • X-axis & series
      • Rows & columns
    • Customise
      • Chart styles
      • Chart & axis titles
      • Series
      • Legend
      • Horizontal & vertical axises
      • Gridlines

Creating and inserting simple chart

Here we have some sales figures.

1) To create a chart, first select the months and the figures.

Sheets16 - 1

2) On the toolbar, click the “Insert chart” icon

Sheets16 - 2

This will produce a default chart based on the data you selected. You can reposition the chart by clicking on a white area and dragging it to where you want it. You can also resize the chart by clicking on one of the little blue squares on the edge of the chart and dragging it inwards or outwards to make the chart smaller or larger.

By default it places the chart on the same page as your data, but sometimes you will want to give the chart its own page. To do so, click on the 3-dot menu in the top right-hand corner and then select “Move to own sheet”.

This creates a new sheet just for the chart.

Along the top you have some options:

Copy chart – This copies the chart onto the clipboard to paste it elsewhere.

Edit chart – This opens the chart editor sidebar, allowing you to customise your chart.

Publish chart – Allows you to publish it on a website.

Save image – This captures an image of the chart and downloads an image file (.png) to your computer.

Delete chart – Deletes the chart. You can also do this simply by clicking on the chart and pressing the delete key.


Let’s take a look at the options in the Chart editor sidebar. It’s divided into two parts, Data and Customise. “Data” mainly includes things like the chart type and what data you want to include. “Customise” allows you to change the look of the chart.

DATA


Chart types

When you first create a chart, Sheets will produce a chart type it thinks most suits the data you’ve selected, which quite often is right, but it also allows you to change it to various chart types. At the top are suggested charts, followed by line graphs, area, column, bar, column, pie, and scatter diagrams. Plus, there are more specific types, such as map, which use location information in your data.


Stacking

Then there is a “stacking” option. With None selected it’s automatically changed the y axis, to cover just roughly the lowest to the highest one. This makes the difference between the highest values and the lowest ones far more pronounced.

With Standard selected, it starts from 0 and goes up to the highest value.


Data range

It states the data range the chart is using, which can be edited by clicking on the grid icon.

Plus, it also gives you the option of adding another range.


X-Axis and Series

Next, it states the X axis label and the series of data which are included in the chart. Plus, the option to add a series.

These can be edited, removed, or the labels added, by clicking on the appropriate 3-dot menu.


Rows and columns

Finally, you can control whether rows and columns are being used, select whether headers are included in the data, etc.


Customise your chart

Once you have the chart and data you want, you may want to customise it further. All the customise options are conveniently under the “Customise” tab.

Here you can edit the chart style, titles, series, legend, axises, and gridlines.


Access the options above by clicking on the downwards arrow on the right-hand side. This will open the options available.

Chart style

Under chart style we do the following:

  • Change the background colour
  • Change the overall chart font
  • Maximise the chart, so that the chart part fills the area
  • Create a 3D chart

Here, I’ve changed the background to yellow. Note, it changes the colour of the whole area.

Here, I’ve selected “Maximize” and as you can see it’s increased the size of the chart to fill the area.

Here, I’ve selected “3D” to create a 3D-style graph.

You can change the font although there are only a few to choose from:


Chart & axis titles

Here you can edit the chart title, subtitle, and axises. Apart from editing the name, you can change the font, font size, add bolding or italics, and change the title colour.

Here’s the original title:

Here I’ve adjusted some of the settings:

As you can see, it’s far clearer now.

You can do the same for the subtitle and X and Y axises, just select the one you want to edit.

Here, I’ve added a title, subtitle, and Y axis title.


Series

This allows you to customise a particular series in the chart.

Choose the series you want to edit by clicking on the drop-down menu next to “Apply to:”. You can edit the colour, set the y axis to either the left or right.

Here, I’ve changed the series colour to red.

Here, I’ve moved the y axis for this series to the right.

You can add data labels and can customise them further. You can edit the font, font size, add bolding and italics, and edit the colour of them.

Finally, you can add a trend line to your data. Selecting it will open more options. You can select different types of trend line, change the colour, the opacity, thickness of it. Plus you can give it a label.

I particularly like the opacity option, as this makes the trend line easier to read without interfering with your data.


Legend

The legend options allow you position the legend and control the font and text colours.


Horizontal axis

You can edit the font and font size of the horizontal axis.

Here I’ve made the text a little bigger.


Vertical axis

You can edit the font and font size of the vertical axis. Plus, you can set the minimum and maximum values of the Y axis.

Here, is the data with the Y axis range from 200 to 600.

You can create a number format for the vertical axis. Click on number format and Custom. This allows you to add either a prefix, or a suffix, or both. Here, we’ll add a dollar sign and an “m” to represent millions.

As we can see, the vertical axis has more meaning now we’ve added them.

Finally, we can edit the gridlines on the chart. For example, here let’s display 5 major gridlines and 3 minor ones in between each major one. I’ve also adjusted the colours of the lines a little.

All these customisations and very simple to do, but can make the world of difference to the look of your charts, to make sure they are easily understood. The best thing is to just play around with various options to get to know the controls, then you’ll be creating charts a little more tasteful than mine!


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Baz Roberts (Google+Flipboard / Twitter)