Bar-Line (XY) Combination Chart in Excel

Combination charts combine data using more than one chart type, for example columns and a line. Building a combination chart in Excel is usually pretty easy. But if one series type is horizontal bars, then combining this with another type can be tricky. I’m here to help with Bar-Line, or rather, Bar-XY combination charts in Excel.

Combination Charts in Excel

I’ll illustrate a simple combination chart with this simple data. The chart will use the first column for horizontal axis category labels, the second column for actual values plotted using lines with markers, and the third column using columns (vertical bars).

Data for our combination chart

We start by selecting the data and inserting a column chart.

Column chart

We finish by right clicking on the “Actual” data, choosing Change Series Chart Type from the pop-up menu, and selecting the new chart type we want. I’ve also used a lighter shade of orange for the columns, to make the markers stand out better.

Column-line combination chart

Let’s do the same for a bar chart. Select the data, insert a bar chart.

Bar chart

Okay, the category labels are along the vertical axis, but we’ll continue by changing the Actual data to a line chart series. That didn’t work out at all. The markers are not positioned vertically along the centers of the horizontal bars, nor horizontally where the data lies in the Actual column of the worksheet.

Bar-line combination chart

In the chart below I’ve shown all axis scales and axis titles to illustrate the problem. When we converted the Actual series to a line type, Excel assigned it to the secondary axis, and we have no ability to reassign it to the primary axis. The primary axes used for the bar chart are not aligned with the secondary axes used for the line chart: the X axis for the bars is vertical and the X axis for the line is horizontal; the Y axis for the bars is horizontal and the Y axis for the line is vertical.

Problem with bar-line combination chart

We can’t use a line chart at all. If we want to line up the markers horizontally with their proper position along the lengths of the bars, we need to use the Actual data as the X values of an XY series. We will need to generate some additional data for the Y values of the XY series.

Bar-XY Combination Chart

We will not try to make a Bar-Line combination chart, because the Line chart type does not position the markers where we want them. We will make a Bar-XY chart type, using an XY chart type (a/k/a Scatter chart type) to position markers.

Here is the new data needed for our Bar-XY combination chart. The factor labels and Target values will be used by the Bar chart series, and the Actual values and Heights for the XY series. Don’t worry about the Height values: I’ll show how they are derived in a moment. The nice thing is that we can use dummy values now and type in the proper values later and the chart will update.

Modified data for our combination chart

Select the first two columns of the data and insert a bar chart.

Bar chart

Since we probably want the categories listed in the same order as in the worksheet, let’s select the vertical axis (which in a bar chart is the X axis) and press Ctrl+1, the shortcut that opens the Format dialog or task pane for the selected object in Excel. Check the box for Categories in Reverse Order and also select Horizontal Axis Crosses at Maximum Category to move it next to Factor 5.

Bar chart with categories in reverse order

I’ve also recolored the bars orange, because blue markers show up better against light orange than orange markers against light blue.

Now copy the last two columns (Actual and Height), select the chart, and on the Home tab of the ribbon, click the Paste dropdown arrow, choose the options in this dialog (add cells as new series, values in columns, series names in first row, categories in first column), and click OK.

Paste special dialog

The data is added as another set of bars, which I’ve colored blue, but we’ll change that in a second.

Bar chart with data pasted special

Right-click on the added series, select Change Series Chart Type from the pop-up menu, and select XY with markers and lines.

Bar-XY combination chart

We see that the horizontal positions of the markers is just what we want to show.

Now we can see where the values in the Heights column comes from. The right hand vertical axis is used for the Y values of the XY series. Looking at the positions of the horizontal bars and the markers in their correct positions, we can see that the Factor 1 bar is centered on Y=4.5, the Factor 2 bar is centered on 3.5, etc. If you hadn’t guessed this at the beginning, type these values into your data range, and let the chart update.

Calculation ov Heights (Y values for XY series)

A few minor changes and we’ll be done. First, change the name of the XY series from Heights to Actual. The easiest way is to click on the series, then look at the highlighted ranges in the chart. The X values (C2:C6) are highlighted purple, the Y values (D2:D6) are highlighted blue, and the series name (cell D1) is highlighted red (highlight colors in Excel 2010 and earlier are different, but the concept is the same). Click on the red border of cell D2, and drag the highlighting rectangle to cover cell C2 to change the series name.

Modified data for our combination chart

Click on the red border of cell D2, and drag the highlighting rectangle to cover cell C2 to change the series name.

Modified data for our combination chart

Then, use a lighter shade of orange for the bars, so the blue markers stand out. Finally, hide the right-hand vertical axis: format it so it has no labels and no line color.

And there’s our completed Bar-XY Combination Chart.

Finished bar-XY combination chart

 

Peltier Tech Chart Utility

Working with Pivot Charts in Excel

About Pivot Charts

If you select a pivot table and insert a chart, Excel inserts a pivot chart. A pivot chart is a special Excel chart, with some strengths and some limitations. I used to avoid pivot charts because of these limitations, which included not being able to hide the field buttons and not being able to resize the plot area or move axis and chart titles. But Microsoft has kept improving them, and now the few remaining limitations seem pretty reasonable given the power and constraints of pivot tables themselves.

  1. A pivot chart is linked to its parent pivot table. Changes to the pivot table are reflected in the pivot chart, and vice versa. If the pivot table changes size, the pivot chart changes the number of its plotted series, and changes the lengths of these series, to accommodate the updated pivot table size.
  2. The pivot chart has optional field buttons that allow the same filtering capabilities directly in the chart that are available to the pivot table.
  3. All data in the pivot table is plotted in the pivot chart, except for subtotals and grand totals. No data from outside the pivot table is allowed in the pivot chart.
  4. Pivot charts are plotted with category labels and series values in columns only. Pivot charts cannot be plotted by row.
  5. Not all chart types are available in pivot charts. Line, column, area, bar, and pie charts are available, for example, but XY scatter charts and bubble charts are not.

Often, pivot charts are exactly what is needed. Sometimes, however, a regular chart must be used. For example, you might want a scatter plot of the pivot table’s data. Or you might want to add data from another source.

My colleague Debra Dalgleish has a brief Pivot Chart Tutorial on her Contextures.com web site, as well as a FAQ page on Pivot Tables and Pivot Charts. Debra also wrote Using Pivot Tables in Microsoft Excel on this blog.

This article will answer the following common questions about pivot charts in Excel.

  • How do I disconnect a pivot chart from its pivot table?
  • How do I copy a pivot chart and link it to another pivot table?
  • How do I convert a pivot chart into a regular chart and preserve its links to the pivot table?

The last question could be answered by Making Regular Charts from Pivot Tables. But the question is often asked by someone who has spent significant time formatting his pivot chart, and doesn’t want to lose this formatting or be forced to recreate it.

We’ll start by reviewing regular charts and how their data is handled. Then we’ll examine differences between regular charts and pivot charts. Finally we’ll investigate answers to the questions above.

Regular Charts

The screenshot below shows a table with some simple data located in B2:D14. The data is rearranged in F3:I7 (a pivot table could have done this). Below that is a regular Excel chart which plots the data from this second range.

Chart Source Data Highlighting

When you select a chart that has a well-behaved* source data range, the chart’s data range is highlighted in the worksheet. The highlighting for our simple chart in Excel 2013 and 2016 is shown below: the X values (category labels) are purple, the Y values are blue, and the series names are red. You can click and drag the highlighted borders to move the chart data, and you can click and drag on the highlighted corners to resize the chart data.

*Well-behaved means that the Y values of the series are in adjacent rows or columns, in order. Y values and X values (if present) must be aligned: in the chart below, the X values and all sets of Y values all begin on the same row and all end on the same other row, and the series names are aligned with the Y values.

When you select a plotted series, the data for that series is highlighted in the worksheet. The highlighting for the first series of our simple chart in Excel 2013 and 2016 is shown below: the X values (category labels) are purple, the Y values are blue, and the series names are red. You can click and drag the highlighted borders to move the chart data, and you can click and drag on the highlighted corners to resize the chart data. Note that our series is plotted by columns.

Chart Series Data Highlighting

When a series is selected, you can also see the corresponding SERIES formula in the formula bar. This series formula has the following components:

  • Series Name: Pivot!$G$3
  • Category Labels (X Values): Pivot!$F$4:$F$7
  • Y Values: Pivot!$G$4:$G$7
  • Plot Order: 1

You can edit this formula in place to adjust the chart data.

Another way to adjust a chart’s data is the Select Data Source dialog. To open this dialog, click the Chart Tools > Design tab > Select Data button, or tight-click on the chart and click Select Data from the pop-up menu.

Select Source Data Dialog

Here is the Select Source Data dialog for our regular chart. The box at the top shows the entire source data, which was highlighted when we selected the entire chart. You can edit this as text, or select another source data range in a worksheet. Caveat: if your selection in the Chart data range box intersects a pivot table, your chart will be converted into a pivot chart based on that pivot table.

Click the Edit button under Axis Labels in the bottom right part of the dialog, and the Axis Labels dialog appears, showing the range containing the axis labels. You can edit this as text, or select another axis label range.

Select a series in the bottom right part of the dialog and click the corresponding Edit button, and the Edit Series dialog appears, showing the range containing the Y values. You can edit this as text, or select another range of values.

If you click the Switch Row/Column button, the same data is used as the source data, but its orientation is switched. The category axis labels become the series names, and the series names become the axis labels. Note that our chart now has four series with three points each (and three axis labels), and the red and purple highlighted regions have changed places.

When we select the first series, we see that it is now aligned in rows.

If your chart’s source data intersects a pivot table, clicking Switch Row/Column will convert your chart into a pivot chart based on that pivot table.

Disconnecting From Worksheet Data

Here’s a little-known debugging trick for Excel formulas. You can use the F9 function key or the Ctrl+= shortcut (hold the Ctrl key while you press the = key) to evaluate part or all of a formula in the formula bar. Fortunately this works for a SERIES formula.

If you click in the formula bar and click F9 or Ctrl+=, every section of the formula is evaluated (and the links are disconnected), as shown in this before-and-after screenshot.

Click Esc to restore the original formula, or Enter to keep the evaluated formula.

If you select just part of a formula and then click F9 or Ctrl+=, just the selected part of the formula is evaluated. In this screenshot, the Y value range of G4:G7 is converted to the array {1;3;2;4}.

To unlink a regular chart from its worksheet data, select each series, click in the formula bar, and press the F9 key.

Copying the Chart

You can copy a chart and paste it anywhere in the same workbook, even onto a different worksheet, and nothing happens to the chart. It shows the same data that it was linked to (on the original sheet), and the series formulas still link back to the original data. This is familiar, expected behavior, although when you want to link the chart to the data on its new parent worksheet, it’s not so welcome. But see Make a Copied Chart Link to New Data if that’s what you need to do.

When you copy a regular chart to a new workbook, it still points back to the original data, which in the SERIES formula is referenced to the original workbook as well as the original worksheet, as “[Pivot.xlsx]Pivot”. So the regular chart behaves exactly as expected.

Pivot Charts

The screenshot below shows a table with the same simple data located in B2:D14. A pivot table in F2:I7 has rearranged the data. Below the pivot table is an Excel pivot chart which plots the data from the pivot table. Note the field buttons in the pivot chart, corresponding to the controls in the pivot table.

We can hide the field buttons (Pivot Chart Tools > Analyze ribbon tab > Field Buttons) and the chart will look just like our regular chart. But it still has the capabilities and limitations of a pivot chart.

Chart Source Data Highlighting

When the pivot chart is selected, no chart data highlights appear in the worksheet.

Chart Series Data Highlighting

When a series is selected in the pivot chart, no series data highlights appear in the worksheet. The SERIES formula appears in the formula bar, but you cannot edit the series data by editing the series formula. You can only change the series plot order by changing the last parameter in the series formula.

Select Source Data Dialog

Here is the Select Source Data dialog for our pivot chart. The box at the top shows that the source data is our pivot table; this cannot be changed. The axis labels cannot be edited, nor can the series values be edited.

If you click the Switch Row/Column button, the chart changes its appearance to match how our regular chart changed: three series of four categories becomes four series of three categories. But the chart’s data orientation didn’t change, because pivot charts can only plot columns of data. Instead, Excel switched the fields in the rows area of the pivot table with those in the columns area. The X and Series field buttons in the chart have changed places as well.

The series formula shows that the first series of our pivot chart is still plotted by column, with the category labels in column F and Y values in column G.

Disconnecting From Worksheet Data

Excel does not let you evaluate part or all of a pivot chart’s SERIES formula using the F9 or Ctrl+= trick, so you can’t use it to disconnect the pivot chart from its pivot table.

Copying the Chart

You can copy a pivot chart and paste it anywhere in the same workbook, even onto a different worksheet, and nothing happens to the chart. It shows the same data that it was linked to (in the original pivot tables), and the series formulas still link back to this pivot table.

Answering Those Questions

How do I disconnect a pivot chart from its pivot table?

Interesting things happen when you copy a pivot chart to a different workbook. The first thing you may notice is that the field buttons have disappeared, because the pivot chart has been converted to a regular chart. The second thing you’ll notice, if you check out the SERIES formula, is that the links to worksheet ranges have been changed into literal arrays of strings and numbers, as if we used our F9 (Ctrl+=) trick to evaluate the formula.

There’s the answer to our first question, how to unlink a pivot chart from its pivot table. Simply copy the pivot chart to a different workbook. Once the links are broken, you can copy it anywhere, even into the original workbook, and it will remain disconnected from the pivot table.

How do I copy a pivot chart and link it to another pivot table?

In the screenshot below, I’ve copied my unlinked chart and pasted it into the original workbook, in a different worksheet with a different Table of data and a different Pivot Table. As noted above, it’s still disconnected.

Here is the Select Source Data dialog for our unlinked chart. The Chart Data Range box at the top is empty, because the chart’s data is hard-coded into the chart’s SERIES formulas. You can click in the box and select a data range from the worksheet.

 

If you select a cell or range that overlaps with a pivot table and click OK, the chart will become a pivot chart and use the data from the selected pivot table. In the screenshot below the chart now has field buttons, so we know it has been converted into a pivot chart. The SERIES formula shows links to the data in the pivot table.

There’s the answer to our second question, how to copy a pivot chart but link it to a new pivot table. Copy the pivot chart to a different workbook to disconnect it from the first pivot table, then copy the chart to the sheet with the second pivot table, then use the Select Data dialog and select the new pivot table in the Chart Data Range box.

How do I convert a pivot chart into a regular chart and preserve its links to the pivot table?

If we avoid the Chart Data Range box, we can still use the Select Data Source dialog to reconstruct links to the pivot table data. This is essentially the technique in Making Regular Charts from Pivot Tables, but we’re using the pivot chart which may have had custom formats applied.

Under Horizontal (Category) Axis Labels, click Edit, and the Axis Labels mini-dialog will appear, showing the literal array of labels.

You can clear the box and select the axis label range from the worksheet using your mouse. Then click OK.

Now under Legend Entries (Series), select the first series from list, and click Edit. The Edit Series mini-dialog appears with the series name as a string, and the series values as a literal array of numbers.

You can clear each box and select the cell containing the series name and the column of cells containing the series values. Click OK, then repeat for the rest of the series in the chart.

The Select Data Source dialog now looks like this, with the Chart Data Range box displaying the range containing all of the pivot table data. Don’t click in this box, and don’t click Switch Row/Column, or your chart will become a pivot chart.

Click OK, and notice how the chart now plots the pivot table data. The data is highlighted in the worksheet, and the chart has no field buttons, because it remains a regular chart.

Selecting a single series shows the data is plotted by column, but again, the series highlights verify that the chart is not a pivot chart.

And this is the answer to our last question, how to convert our pivot chart to a regular chart but maintain links to the pivot table’s data. Actually, I’ve linked it here to a new pivot table, but I could link it to the original pivot table in the same way. Strictly speaking, this approach didn’t actually maintain the links, as we had to reconstruct them. There is no way to maintain the links while converting the pivot chart into a regular chart.

 

Peltier Tech Chart Utility

Dynamic Charts in Excel 2016 for Mac

A reader emailed to ask whether you could make a dynamic chart using OFFSET-function-based Names in Excel 2016 for Mac. Good question, and I wondered if he’d encountered some unexpected problem, perhaps a bug, in Mac Excel. So I dusted off my MacBook Pro and tried it out.

Bottom line: There are several ways to make dynamic charts in Excel, and there seems to be no difference other than cosmetic in how they work between different versions of Excel, and between operating system. The protocols are the same for Mac Excel and Windows Excel, and perhaps it’s time for a quick review. This exercise was done completely in Mac Excel 2016, and other than not knowing a few of the shortcuts I use everyday, it was not very different from working in Windows Excel 2016.

Dynamic Charts in Excel

It’s pretty easy to set up data and create a chart in Excel. But once you’ve created a chart, it keeps plotting data from the same cells. If the data in the cells changes, so does the chart, but if the data extends to more cells (or shrinks to fewer cells), the chart doesn’t seem to notice.

Static Excel Chart

There are a couple ways to create charts that will grow with your data. The easiest way is to use Tables as the chart source data. A bit more complicated is to use Excel’s Names to define the series data for your chart. Using Names can lead to more flexibility in defining the data in your charts. I’ll describe how to make dynamic charts using Tables, using Names, and using Names in a more flexible way.

Dynamic Charts Using Tables

The easiest way to make a chart’s contents reflect the size of a range of data is to put the data into a Table.

Tables made their appearance in Excel 2003, and were called “Lists”. These lists were a more structured container for your data, with a database structure of fields (columns) and records (rows), field headers (column headers) and filtering tools. You could sort and filter your data range easily, and any formula that used a whole column of your List updated to automatically keep using that whole column of the list. Lists became the favored source data for charts and also for pivot tables.

In Excel 2007, Lists became known as “Tables”, and their capabilities have been expanded in every version since.

The screenshot below shows the same data and chart as above, but the data is now in a Table.

To get your data into a table, you select it (or select one cell and let Excel figure out how far it stretches), and on the Insert tab of the ribbon, click Table. Excel asks if your table has headers, then it applies a Table style (the yellow style is shown below), it adds AutoFilter dropdown arrows to the field headers, and it puts a small backwards “L” bracket at the bottom right corner of the table.

Excel Chart Based On Table

You can change the size of the Table by clicking and dragging the bracket at the bottom left corner of the Table. If you type or paste data directly below the Table, the Table will automatically expand to include this new data. And a chart that uses all rows of the existing Table will expand accordingly.

Excel Chart Expands to Include Added Table Rows

If you type or paste data directly to the right of the Table, the Table will also automatically expand to include this new data. A chart that uses all of the existing Table will expand accordingly.

Excel Chart Expands to Include Added Table Columns

This little trick of adding a new series if the data expands accordingly is nice, but it requires that the chart already contain all of the Table’s data.

Names (a/k/a “Defined Names”, “Named Ranges”, etc.)

A Name is what Excel calls a variable that resides in a worksheet or a workbook.

Names are often assigned to cells or ranges; for example, you might place a sales tax rate into a cell and name the cell SalesTax, and subsequently use the cell’s name rather than its address in a formula. Because of this Names have been nicknamed “Named Ranges”.

However, the definition of the name includes a formula. If my sales tax rate was stored in cell A1, then my Name SalesTax would have a definition of “=A1”. Because of this, John Walkenbach proposed that Names should be called “Named Formulas”, but he’s smarter than the rest of us, so his suggestion didn’t stick.

We can use Names in our charts, but we need a distinct name for each dynamic range that the chart will need. We’ll need one Name for the X values if the series use the same X values range, and we’ll need one Name for the Y values of each series. In our sample, we will need three Names. I’ll call them XValues, Y1Values, and Y2Values, and I will define them as follows:

XValues
=OFFSET(Names!$A$1,1,0,COUNTA(Names!$A:$A)-1,1)

This OFFSET formula uses cell A1 of worksheet Names as a starting point, offsets the range down by one row and right by zero rows, then makes it as many rows tall as the number of alphanumeric cells in column A minus one (we don’t want to include the “Category” label), and one column wide.

So starting with cell A1, our range begins in cell B1, and is 6 rows tall and one column wide; our final range is A2:A7. It’s easy to see that adding another value into cell A8 will expand this range to A2:A8. However, if we add a value in cell A57, it will also expand our range to A2:A8, so we need to make sure the rows below our data are kept blank.

The other two definitions are easier:

Y1Values
=OFFSET(Names!XValues,0,1)
Y2Values
=OFFSET(Names!XValues,0,2)

We’ve already figured out how large each range needs to be, since the X and Y values have the same number of cells, so both of these OFFSET formulas start with the first name XValues as an anchor, and offset no rows down but one or two columns to the right. If we don’t specify sizes, then the new Names will define ranges the same size as the anchor.

Okay, that’s how to build a formula definition for a Name. Let’s actually create a Name.

On the Formulas tab of the ribbon, click the Define Name dropdown, and select Define Name… This pops up the Define Name dialog, shown below for the Mac. The Windows dialog is a bit more extensive, and Windows Excel has a much better Names Manager (this dialog happens to serve as the Mac’s Names Manager). For a truly powerful Name Manager, you should try out the free Name Manager add-in at the website of my colleague, Excel MVP Jan Karel Pieterse.

Static Excel Chart

If you’ve selected data before opening the dialog, Excel tries to guess how you want to name data based on labels in the top row and left column of the selection. But I’ve cleared all of this so we’re starting fresh.

Here I’ve typed the name of the Name. Note that I’ve included the worksheet name and exclamation point, which means the Name will be “in scope” (i.e., available) for the worksheet “Names”. Otherwise it would be “in scope” for the entire workbook.

Static Excel Chart

Then enter the formula where it says “Select the range of cells”. You can enter any formula that refers to cells, or a formula that calculates a value, or a constant value. I don’t capitalize my function names when I enter them; that way, if there’s an error, Excel won’t capitalize a bad function name. A misspelled keyword is easier to recognize if it is not capitalized (“offfset” vs. “OFFFSET”).

Static Excel Chart

Click the OK button to add the Name and exit the dialog, or click the Plus icon to add the name and keep the dialog open.

The name is listed in the box at the left; the worksheet name is listed as well to remind us that the scope of the Name is limited to that worksheet. The sheet name is removed from the name in the top right box.

Static Excel Chart

You can make sure the name refers to the intended range if you click in the box with the formula defining the Name. With the cursor in the formula, the range A2:A7 is highlighted in the worksheet. Perfect.

Static Excel Chart

Now enter the name and formula for the next Name, and don’t forget to include the worksheet name.

Static Excel Chart

Click the plus icon to add the name, and click in the formula to make sure that the Name references the desired range, B2:B7. Check.

Static Excel Chart

Enter the name and formula for the last Name, remembering to include the worksheet name. Click the plus icon, and check that the formula refers to C2:C7.

Static Excel Chart

Whew! Now we’re finally ready to make our dynamic chart.

Dynamic Charts Using Names

Every chart series has a formula that defines the data in the chart. The blue series in the static chart below is

=SERIES(Names!$B$1,Names!$A$2:$A$7,Names!$B$2:$B$7,1)

This means it uses cell B1 of the sheet Names for the series name (“Alpha”), A2:A7 for the X values, B2:B7 for the Y values, and it’s the first series in the chart. The formula for the orange series is

=SERIES(Names!$C$1,Names!$A$2:$A$7,Names!$C$2:$C$7,2)

We can use the Select Data dialog to modify these, but it’s easiest to simply edit the formula directly.

Select the blue series of the dynamic chart, and observe the formula in the Formula Bar. It probably looks like the first SERIES formula above (I invariably start with a static chart of the data I want to plot dynamically). Edit the formula to read as follows, and press Enter.

=SERIES(Names!$B$1,Names!XValues,Names!Y1Values,1)

If Excel doesn’t like the new formula, make sure you’ve spelled the Names correctly.

Similarly edit the formula for the orange series to read

=SERIES(Names!$B$1,Names!XValues,Names!Y2Values,2)

At first the two charts look the same.

Static Excel Chart

When we select the static chart, we can see the chart’s source data highlighted in the worksheet.

Static Excel Chart

We see the same data highlighted when the dynamic chart is selected. It’s convenient that Excel is smart enough to highlight the chart data even if it is defined by dynamic Names. I’ll select the dynamic charts in the rest of this tutorial to show the range included in these charts.

Static Excel Chart

Now let’s extend the data by a couple of rows. The static chart isn’t clever enough to notice, but the dynamic chart keeps up nicely, illustrated by the highlighted data in the worksheet.

Static Excel Chart

If we extend the data by a new column, the static chart doesn’t change, and the dynamic chart doesn’t add a series to represent the new data.

Static Excel Chart

I’ve added a third chart which shows the new data. I had to add an extra Name to the worksheet:

Y3Values
=OFFSET(Names!XValues,0,3)

and then I had to add a third series to the chart with the following SERIES formula:

=SERIES(Names!$B$1,Names!XValues,Names!Y3Values,3)

My new chart contains all the data, though I had to include it in the chart manually.

Static Excel Chart

Before Excel 2003, the only way to get a dynamic chart was by using Names. It’s a lot of work, and hardly seems worthwhile if using Tables is so easy. But if we know how to make a chart using Names, we can make a dynamic chart that’s more complicated than just expanding to add a row.

Dynamic Charts Using Complicated Names

How about a chart that doesn’t show all the data, but only the last several points. This might be useful if you want to show the last six months of sales, or high temperature for the previous week.

We’ll make a dynamic chart that plots the last five values. The setup is almost identical to the previous dynamic chart, but our definition of XValues will change.

XValues
=OFFSET(Names!$A$1,COUNTA(Names!$A:$A)-1,0,-5,1)

This OFFSET formula uses cell A1 of worksheet Names as a starting point, offsets the range down by the number of alphanumeric cells in column A minus one, and right by zero rows. This means now we’re starting at cell A7 instead of A2. Then we make the range -5 rows high, meaning we count upward, and one column wide. Our new X values range should be A3:A7. After entering the new name as before, check to make sure the correct range is highlighted.

Edit the SERIES formulas of your dynamic chart as we did above. We see that our static chart shows all six points of the data, but the dynamic chart shows only the last five points, categories B through F.

Static Excel Chart

Let’s add a couple rows of data. The static chart is, well, static, but our dynamic chart shows the new last five points, categories D through H.

Static Excel Chart

Summary

Dynamic charts can easily be created in Excel using data ranges from Tables.

With a bit more work dynamic charts can be created using skillfully defined Names. These charts can be more flexible than Table-based dynamic charts, depending on the formula skills of the Excel user. There are a few gotchas that I didn’t mention: some Name definitions seem like they should work, for example, but Excel charts won’t recognize certain functions. Also, some Name names may cause problems, especially those beginning with the letter “c”; you can’t enter them into the SERIES formula, but you can use them in the Select Data dialog.

 

Peltier Tech Chart Utility

Make Technical Dot Plots in Excel

What’s a “Technical” Dot Plot?

This chart is crisp and well suited for publication in a technical journal, hence the name I’ve given it, “Technical” Dot Plot. The chart below show results of a hypothetical clinical trial, where the X values (categories) are three different cleansing approaches, and the Y values are the individual responses, where a lower value indicates fewer incidences of infection.

Columns of Dots Plot

This “technical” dot plot chart shows each individual response, to give you an idea of the distribution of results. This is more detailed than a simple average, or even a box plot, which simplifies the data distribution into its min, max, median, and quartiles. If desired, each category could have different marker (dot) shapes, sizes, or colors. However, that isn’t necessary.

Other Kinds of Dot Plot

If you Google “Dot Plot”, or search Wikipedia or any other resource, you’ll learn that the phrase “dot plot” can mean many different things. In addition to what I call the “Technical” Dot Plot shown above, there are also “Cleveland” Dot Plots, “Kindergarten” Dot Plots, and Scatter Plots. Technical Dot Plots, Cleveland Dot Plots, and Scatter Plots are all effective means of displaying data. Unfortunately people who display data effectively do not always come up with effective and unique names for their charts.

“Cleveland” Dot Plot

This type of graphic is named for William Cleveland who described them in a 1984 paper with coauthor Robert McGill. They were presented nicely by Naomi Robbins in Dot Plots: A Useful Alternative to Bar Charts.

Dot Plot per William Cleveland

Peltier Tech Charts for Excel can create this type of chart as easily as any built-in Excel chart.

These are often a better alternative to horizontally-oriented line charts, especially since the category labels can be reasonably long and still remain horizontal for improved readability.

Line Chart

“Kindergarten” Dot Plot

I call this the “Kindergarten” Dot Plot, because it feels more like a fingerpainted art project than a serious means of visualizing data. It is built by adding a dot to the chart every time you encounter the given value in a set of numbers. See another value, dip your finger in paint and put another blot on the paper.

Kindergarten Dot Plot

To me, the histogram below is a better representation of the distribution above. The simple bars show the values without distracting me into counting all those stupid little dots.

Histogram

Peltier Tech Charts for Excel can create histograms easily in Excel. Excel’s old Analysis Toolpak used to make column charts that were passed off as histograms, and Excel 2016 for Windows has finally introduced native histograms.

You can represent a histogram as a line chart, below left, often called a “Probability Polygon”. It’s not a terrible representation, though I prefer the histogram.

Often you’ll see a probability polygon shown with markers and without line segments, and it’s also called a dot plot, below right. I find this inferior, because the dots are unconnected and seem to be strewn across the chart.

Probability Polygon and another Dot Plot

Scatter Plot

A Scatter Plot (a/k/a XY Chart, Scatter Chart, etc.) is often called a Dot Plot because dots (markers) are used to indicate individual data points.

Scatter Plot

Make a Technical Dot Plot

I’ll describe a few different ways to create Technical Dot Plots. The end result is the same, but the protocol differs because you may have different data layouts available for use.

Regardless of data layout, we will make a combination chart, using a column chart type to get the nice horizontal axis labels and XY Scatter types to get the dots.

Data Layout A – Multiple X and Y Series

The first data layout has separate X and Y values for each category in the chart. The X and Y ranges for each set of dots may be next to each other:

or the X and Y ranges for each set of dots may be separated from each other:

You also need a small table with the category names and zero values. Select this small table, and insert a column chart. The chart appears to contain no data, because the zero values produce bars with zero height. Format this chart now (or later) as appropriate.

Copy and select the orange shaded data range, either B2:C12 in the example with the X and Y ranges together or B2:B12 and E2:E12 in the example with the separated X and Y ranges. To select multiple areas, select the first area, then hold Ctrl while selecting additional areas.

Select the chart, then go to Home tab > Paste dropdown > Paste Special, and choose the options shown in the dialog below, to add the data as new series, values in columns, series name in first row, categories in first column.

This results in the data being added as a new column series (below left). The categories are temporarily messed up: the three original categories are forced to the left because the new series has more points.

Right click on the added series, and choose Change Series Chart Type from the pop-up menu. Choose the XY Scatter type with markers and no lines. The result is a set of orange dots, plus secondary X and Y axes added to the chart (below right).

Select the series of dots and press Ctrl+1 (numeral one), the shortcut to open the Format Selected Object in Excel. Change the series from secondary to primary axis. Without an explicit X axis for the series, the X values of 1 align the points above the first category along the horizontal axis (below left).

Excel 2013 introduced a new Change Chart Type dialog which allows you to change chart types and axis of multiple series at once; this greatly reduces steps needed for this in a combination chart like this.

Copy and select the gray shaded data range, either D2:E12 in the example with X and Y ranges together or C2:C12 and F2:F12 in the example with separated X and Y ranges. Select the chart, and use Paste Special to add the data as new series, values in columns, series name in first row, categories in first column. The result is a set of gray dots added to the chart (below right). Excel remembers that the previous added series was changed to an XY type with markers and no lines on the primary axis, so it uses these settings for the new series. The X values of 2 position the gray dots above the second category along the X axis.

Copy and select the gold shaded data range, either F2:G12 in the example with X and Y ranges together or D2:D12 and G2:G12 in the example with separated X and Y ranges. Select the chart, and use Paste Special to add the data as before. The result is a set of gold dots added to the chart (below left). Excel again applies an XY chart type with markers and no lines and assigns the series to the primary axis. The X values of 3 position the gold dots above the third category along the X axis.

If you don’t need different colors for the different sets of dots, format them all the same (below right).

The technical dot plot is ready for publication.

Data Layout B – Single X with Multiple Y Series

The second data layout has a single set of X values with three sets of Y values, as shown below. This is easier than the previous data layout, because it requires only one Copy-Paste-Special cycle. Don’t worry about the blank cells; Excel will ignore them in the chart.

You also need a small table with the category names and zero values. From this small table, you insert a column chart. The chart appears to contain no data, because the zero values produce bars with zero height. Format this chart now (or later) as appropriate.

Select and copy the data range (B2:E32 in the example above). Select the chart, then go to Home tab > Paste dropdown > Paste Special, and choose the options shown in the dialog below, to add the data as new series, values in columns, series name in first row, categories in first column.

This results in the data being added as three new column series (below left). The categories are temporarily messed up: the new series have many more points, forcing the three original categories to the left.

Right click on the first added series, and choose Change Series Chart Type from the pop-up menu. Choose the XY Scatter type with markers and no lines. The result is a set of orange dots, plus secondary X and Y axes added to the chart (below right).

Change the chart type of the second and third added series from column to XY Scatter, so that there are three sets of colored dots on the secondary axes (below left).

Select the first series of dots and press Ctrl+1 (numeral one), the shortcut to open the Format Selected Object in Excel. Change the series from secondary to primary axis. Without an explicit X axis for the series, the X values of 1 align the points above the first category along the horizontal axis (below right).

Format the second and third set of dots so they are also plotted on the primary axis (below left). The X values of 2 and 3 position the dots above the second and third categories on the X axis.

Excel 2013 introduced a new Change Chart Type dialog which allows you to change chart types and axis of multiple series at once; this greatly streamlines the process to build a combination chart like this.

If you don’t need different colors for the different sets of dots, format them all the same (below right).

The technical dot plot is ready to go.

Data Layout C – Single X and Y Series

The third data layout has a single set of X values and a single set of Y values, as shown below. This is the easiest of all, because it requires only one Copy-Paste-Special cycle, and there is only one series to be modified once it’s been added to the chart.

You also need a small table with the category names and zero values. From this small table, you insert a column chart. The chart appears to contain no data, because the zero values produce bars with zero height. Format this chart now (or later) as appropriate.

Select and copy the data range (B2:E32 in the example above). Select the chart, then go to Home tab > Paste dropdown > Paste Special, and choose the options shown in the dialog below, to add the data as new series, values in columns, series name in first row, categories in first column.

This results in the data being added as a new column series (below left). The categories are temporarily messed up: the three original categories are forced to the left because the new series has way more points.

Right click on the added series, and choose Change Series Chart Type from the pop-up menu. Choose the XY Scatter type with markers and no lines. The result is a set of orange dots, plus secondary X and Y axes added to the chart (below right).

Select the  series of orange dots and press Ctrl+1 (numeral one), the shortcut to open the Format Selected Object in Excel. Change the series from secondary to primary axis. Without an explicit X axis for the series, the X values of 1, 2, and 3 align the points above the first, second, and third category along the horizontal axis (below right).

Excel 2013 introduced a new Change Chart Type dialog which allows you to change chart types and axis of multiple series at once; this greatly simplifies formatting of a combination chart like this.

If you don’t need different colors for the different sets of dots, format them all the same (below right).

Your new technical dot plot is good to go.

 

Peltier Tech Chart Utility

Peltier Tech Charts for Excel 3.0

 

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