The Format Task Pane was added in Excel 2013 and provides detailed controls for most chart elements. Previously, this sort of formatting was done with the Format dialog box. The main idea behind the Format Task pane is to provide a more complete set of controls to format things like charts without obscuring the worksheet below. The easiest way to display the Format Task Pane is to double-click on a chart. This will open the Format Task Pane with Chart Options selected. You can also select a chart element first, then use the keyboard shortcut Control + 1. For example, if I select the data bars in this chart, then type Control + 1, the Format Task Pane will open with with the data series options selected. The Format Task pane stays open until you manually close the window. There are two other ways to open the task pane. You can select element, and then click the Format Selection button on the Chart Tools Format tab, or, easier, right-click any element and choose the format option from the shortcut menu. Notice when you right-click a chart element, you’ll see a shortcut menu and something called the mini-toolbar, which provides quick access to common formatting tasks, plus a small menu to browse and select chart elements. The content in the Format Task Pane varies a lot depending on what element is selected.  For example if I select the chart title, I get options to format the title, with two menu tabs at the top: one for Title options, one for text options. Under the title tab, you’ll find options for line and fill, special effects, and size and properties . Under text options you’ll find text fill, text effects, and text box controls. If I select the data bars, I get controls to format the Data Series. Once the Format Task Pane is open, you can use the element selector at the top to move between different chart elements. Again notice that the pane continues to update with specific controls, as different chart elements are selected. You can undock the Format Task Pane if you like. Just click and drag the title area, and resize the window as you like. Now the pane will appear floating when invoked. To re-dock the pane, just drag to the edge of the window. The Format Task Pane is a detailed control that takes some getting used to. We’re going to use it a lot 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.