The number of tools Excel that provides for working with charts can be a little overwhelming. But the tools get easier with practice. Let’s take a quick tour to get you acquainted. First, the ribbon. To create a chart, you can click Recommended Charts on the Insert tab of the ribbon. Excel will show you recommended charts based on the data you’ve selected. Alternately, if you know the chart type you want, you can use one of the small chart icons to the right. Once you’ve created a chart, you’ll see two new tabs appear in the ribbon whenever the chart is selected: Design and Format. These appear under the Chart Tools heading. When the chart is deselected, these tabs disappear. In a nutshell, the Design tab has tools for adding chart elements, changing layouts, colors, chart styles, working with chart data, changing the chart type, and moving the chart. The Format tab has tools for selecting and formatting chart elements, inserting shapes and text boxes, working with shape styles, applying wordart styles, and controls for changing layering, alignment, and chart size. We’ll cover these features in more detail in upcoming videos. Excel also attaches a menu of tools directly to the chart itself. When you select a chart in Excel, you’ll see three helper icons to the right. The plus icon helps you quickly add and remove common chart elements. The paint brush icon allows you to apply chart styles and colors. The filter icon allows you to quickly exclude or include chart data. Also, when you right click a chart, you’ll see a context-sensitive menu appear with many useful options. This menu changes to respond to the element selected, as you can see if I right click directly on different chart elements. Above the context menu, you’ll see a mini toolbar. The mini toolbar has a small set of common formatting options, and a menu to navigate top level chart elements.  To format text with the mini toolbar you’ll want to click once to select, then double click to get inside the text box. Finally, in Excel 2013 and later, you’ll find the Format Task Pane. The Format Task Pane provides a huge array of options for configuring chart elements. This intimidating control panel appears when you double click a chart element, or select a chart element and use the keyboard shortcut control + 1. We’ll cover the Format Task Pane 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.