Types of Charts

The most common chart types include pie, bar, column (default), line, and area. Table 12.2 lists these chart types, their descriptions, and how you would use them.

Table 12.2. Excel's Chart Types

Chart Type

Description/How to Use It


Plots only one category of data, but each wedge of the pie represents a different data series. Use this chart to show the relationship among parts of a whole.


Horizontal representations of column charts, often called histograms. Use this chart to compare values at a given point in time, emphasizing the performance of a group of items. Often, different patterns are not required for bar chart data series.


Similar to a bar chart; use this chart to emphasize the difference between items over a period of time. Columns make it easy to compare the values of items in each category. Column charts are best for comparing two or more items.


Use this chart to emphasize trends and the change of values over time, showing how one or more items have changed over time. Lines emphasize the change, not the comparison of one item to another. Also useful for plotting numerous categories of data for multiple data series.


Similar to the line chart and stacked column chart in that an area chart shows how items combine to form a total. Use this chart to emphasize the amount of change in values, providing a more dramatic representation of the change in values over time.

Most of these basic chart types also come in 3D. A standard, flat chart is professional looking, but a 3D chart can help your audience distinguish between different sets of data. When you choose a chart type and a chart subtype, you can display, in a professional manner, interesting and meaningful results based on your worksheet data.

    Part I: Excel Basics