I heard a rumor that Excle 2010 had expanded limits to how many points you could plot in a chart. From Excel 97 through 2007, you were limited to 32,000 points per chart series, and 256,000 points per chart. As far as I was ever concerned, this was more than enough points to make a chart unreadable. Most charts have a plot area less than 250,000 pixels. The plot area in the following chart, which I’ve shaded yellow, is rather large, 605 x 423 pixels, or 255,915 total pixels. If every point is one pixel in size, and no points overlap, you couldn’t fit them all into this chart.
Never mind now long it takes to redraw.
Number of Points in a Series
Despite the limited utility of cramming data points on top of each other, I thought I’d investigate the rumored new limits. Here’s an Excel 2010 chart with 100 points; I’ve used the row number for X and 1/(row number) for Y.
Let’s skip 1000 points, here’s a chart with 10,000 points
Keep piling on. Here’s a chart with 32,000 points, the maximum allowed in a series in earlier Excel versions.
100,000 points, anyone?
Okay, I’ll bite. Here’s a chart with all of column A as X values and all of column B as Y values. 1,048,576 points. And it didn’t choke. It took a while to redraw, of course.
Check out this unique chart series formula. It uses the entire columns in the definitions of X and Y.
Number of Series in a Chart
I tried the same thing with the number of chart series. This is what 100 series look like in a chart. The X values are 1 through 25. Series 1 uses Y values 2 to 26, Series 2 uses 3 to 27, and so forth.
Here’s the same chart with 255 series, the maximum number of series in a chart in prior versions of Excel.
I tried adding more, and learned I’d exceeded the limit.
The number of series allowed in a chart in Excel 2010 has remained the same as in earlier versions, 255 series, but the number of points in a series has increased dramatically, from 32,000 to 1,048,576, so that entire columns in the larger grid of Excel 2007 & 2010 can be used as the source data of a chart series.
The total number of points allowed in a chart has obviously increased, since the old limit of 256,000 points is smaller than the new limit on points per series. Since drawing one series with a million points took over a minute, I did not have time to explore this limit. (Hmm, I also didn’t check whether the help files have yet been updated with the new limits.)