What is a combo chart? A combo chart is just a name for a chart that uses more than one chart type. For example, a column chart combined with a line chart. Here we have annual financial data for Google, including Revenue, Net Income, and Profit Margin. To give you a little context, I’m going to build a straight column chart first, so you can see why you might want to use a combo chart. Now, with the data like it is, when I insert a column chart, Excel plots the year as a data series instead using year for horizontal axis labels. This is a case where the label “Year” confuses Excel because it suggests a data series. We could fix this using Select Data…. But overall it will be easier if I remove the column heading, and try again. OK, now we have the basic chart in place, and you can see clearly why we might want to use a combo chart. Revenue and net income are large numbers, and plot just fine, but profit margin is lost completely since it’s a tiny number. The solution is to switch profit margin to a line, plotted on a secondary axis. You can do this by changing the chart type. In the window that opens, select Combo chart on the All Charts tab. Then, make sure profit margin is set to Line, and secondary axis is checked. Now we have a legible chart. There were quite a few steps there, and you might wonder if there’s a better way. And the answer is yes. If I use Recommended Charts from the start, there’s a good chance that Excel will get it right in one step. Let’s try that. I’ll first delete the existing chart. Then I’ll add back the column heading heading for year. Next, I’ll use Recommended Charts, find the combo chart suggested, and insert the chart. So this looks pretty good. If I click Change Chart type, notice that Combo Chart is selected, with the same setting for profit margin that we configured manually just a moment ago. So, the bottom line is, with data like this, start with Recommended Charts. Then if needed use the Change Chart Type to confirm or adjust settings.

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.