A chart axis works like a reference line or scale for data plotted in a chart. Excel has two primary types of chart axes. The first type is called a value axis, which is used to plot numeric data. Often, the vertical axis in a chart is a value axis. The other primary axis type is called a category axis, which often appears as a horizontal axis. A category axis is used to group dates or text. When you hover your mouse over an axis in an Excel chart, Excel will display the axis name. The axis type will always appear in parentheses. The number of axes you see in a chart varies by chart type. Pie charts, doughnut charts, sunburst charts, and treemap charts have no axes. Excel’s standard two dimensional charts have two axes, as you can see in these examples of a bar chart, column chart, line chart, and area chart. Many chart types allow a secondary vertical axis. In this example, a secondary vertical axis is used to plot net profit. So, in this case the chart has 3 axes. Three dimensional charts in Excel have a third axis, the depth axis. The depth axis is also called a series axis or z axis. It allows data to be plotted along the depth of a chart. Not all chart types display axes the same way. XY scatter charts and bubble charts show numeric values on both the horizontal axis and the vertical axis. For example, this xy scatter chart shows how the cost of a backpacking tent generally decreases as weight increases. In the chart, both of these items have numeric values, and the data points are plotted on the x and y axes relative to their numeric values. In column, line, and area charts, you’ll see numeric values on the vertical axis and categories on the horizontal axis. For example, in this column chart, the vertical axis is a value axis plotting sales, and the horizontal axis is a category axis plotting quarters. In this line chart, the interest rate is plotted on the vertical axis, and time is plotted across the horizontal category axis. Chart axes can be displayed or hidden using the Chart Elements menu. For example, I can hide and unhide the vertical axis in this chart using the checkbox. Excel provides a lot of control over how axes are formatted and displayed. We’ll cover these settings in more detail in upcoming videos.

Dave Bruns

Hi - I’m Dave Bruns, and I run Exceljet with my wife, Lisa. Our goal is to help you work faster in Excel. We create short videos, and clear examples of formulas, functions, pivot tables, conditional formatting, and charts.