Working with Chart Options

After you've decided what type of chart to create, you can set a wide variety of options for your chart. For example, you may want to annotate the chart with a title, a legend, and titles for each individual chart axis, depending on the number of axes the chart has. All these elements become part of the chart, and if you resize or move the chart, they are resized or moved as well.

Before you start working with chart options or with chart formatting, however, it's helpful to take a look at the elements that can appear in charts and the nomenclature Graph uses to describe these elements?which may not always be familiar.

Inspecting a Chart

Figure 15.6 shows a typical 3D column chart. This chart's elements include the plot area (the main part of the chart), which is bounded by the axes: the x-axis, y-axis, and (in some three-dimensional charts) z-axis.

Figure 15.6. A typical Microsoft Graph 3D column chart.



If you're not sure where a chart element is, or what it's called, move the mouse pointer over an element on the chart. Word displays a ScreenTip that shows you the name of the chart element you're pointing to.

Within the plot area, the chart depicts one or more data series, each representing a row or column of data from your Word table or other source. The individual bars, columns, or other elements representing each data point within the data series are called data markers.

The plot area can also contain several optional text elements, such as axis titles that describe what each axis is measuring, and data labels that show the exact values (or names) for each data marker. Gridlines help the eye keep track of multiple lines.

A chart title appears at the top of the chart. In this example, the y-axis is the scale Microsoft Graph uses to generate the chart. This is true with most charts, with the notable exception of pie charts. If all your data points are between 0 and 500, for example, Graph places 0 at the bottom of the scale and 500 at the top.

Each increment on the y-axis is called a tick mark. Graph also features a y-axis title you can use to tell your audience what you're measuring. Some examples might be

Profit, in millions of dollars

Commissions, by percentage

Hard disk speed, in milliseconds

Land, in square miles

The y-axis normally tells which data series is being measured. Often, the x-axis displays the passage of time. For example, it might show four quarters in a year, or monthly results. Or it might also show results from various locations or divisions.

By default, Graph displays each data series in a different color, with like information displayed in the same color. Graph generally maintains contrast between adjacent bars, pie slices, and so on. This contrast enables you to understand the data clearly, even when it's printed in black and white. As you'll see later, however, you can change color, add patterns, or change the background Graph normally uses.

In 3D charts, such as the one shown in Figure 15.6, Graph also includes a wall, corner, and floor. These make up the 3D background to the "room" where the chart appears. Walls and floors can each be formatted separately.

Finally, most charts (except those that use only one data series) also contain a legend?an explanation of what each color or pattern represents. Graph inserts a legend by default.

Setting Chart Options

To control the options available for your specific chart, select the chart and choose Chart Options from the Chart menu. Or right-click on an empty area within the chart and choose Chart Options from the shortcut menu. The Chart Options dialog box appears, as shown in Figure 15.7. From here, depending on the type of chart you've created, you can control elements such as these:

  • Titles? You can specify names for the chart and each of its axes.

  • Axes? You can specify which axis will be set as primary, among other attributes.

  • Gridlines? You can specify whether gridlines will appear, and if so, where.

  • Legend? You can specify whether a legend will appear, and if so, where.

  • Data Labels? You can specify whether data labels will appear, and if so, what they will contain.

  • Data Table? You can specify whether your chart will be accompanied by a data table presenting all the values used to construct the chart.

Figure 15.7. You can control the elements included in your chart through the Chart Options dialog box.


Again, the options available to you depend on the chart you've chosen. For example, a column chart has two axes that can be titled, whereas a radar chart has none. Most charts have gridlines; pie charts and doughnut charts do not.

Some controls are available no matter what kind of chart you have, however. For example, you can always specify a title for your chart in the Titles tab, or a legend in the Legend tab.

As you work in the tabs of the Chart Options dialog box, you can see the effects of your changes in a preview that appears on the right side of the dialog box.

The next few sections discuss each set of chart options available through the Chart Options dialog box.

Inserting Titles for Your Chart and Axes

To add a title to your chart, display the Chart Options dialog box and select the Titles tab. Graph displays title options, as shown earlier in Figure 15.7. Here, you can specify which titles you want to add: a Chart Title and, in most cases, titles for at least one axis. Type the titles in the text boxes and click OK. Graph now displays the titles in the chart, inserted as text boxes.

You can now edit or format the titles manually by clicking inside the title you want to edit. As you edit and format the title, you have access to Standard toolbar buttons, such as Cut, Copy, and Paste, and Formatting toolbar buttons, such as Font, Font Size, Bold, Italic, and Underline. These work just as they do in Word. To move any title, click it once to highlight its text box and then click and drag the borders of the box.

For more information about formatting chart elements, see "Formatting Chart Elements," p. 527.


Any text in a chart automatically resizes when the overall chart is resized. This can lead to text being far too small to read or, in some cases, to text that is disproportionately large. To turn off automatic resizing, right-click inside the title and choose Format Chart Title from the shortcut menu. Then, in the Font tab of the Format Chart Title dialog box, clear the Auto Scale check box.

Controlling Axes

By default, Graph displays tick-mark labels about each axis of data it is graphing. You can use the Axes tab of the Chart Options dialog box to hide tick-mark labels for some of the axes in your chart, or to change the labels displayed on your chart's primary axis (see Figure 15.8).

Figure 15.8. Controlling how axes display through the Chart Options dialog box.


To hide the tick-mark labels associated with any axis, clear the check box next to that axis. Click OK.

To change the contents of your primary axis tick-mark labels, first make sure that the primary axis is checked; then click the Automatic, Category, or Time-Scale button and click OK.

If you choose Automatic, Word presents a timescale x-axis if the data appears to be time-based (for example, if it is based on months or minutes); otherwise, it displays a default "category" x-axis.

A timescale axis places all times or dates based on how far apart they are on the clock or calendar. For example, if your chart contained sets of data points for January, March, and April, Word would place a blank space where February should have appeared.

A category axis, in contrast, simply places all sets of data points equidistant from each other. If you choose Category, Word will follow this approach even if your data points are based on times or dates.

Controlling Gridlines

Gridlines can make your chart more readable?or, if you overdo them, they can make your chart more obscure. Graph gives you complete control over the gridlines along each axis. You can easily turn them on or off, or format them any way you want.

To enable or disable a gridline, click its corresponding button in the Standard toolbar. The Value Axis Gridline button controls horizontal lines; the Category Axis Gridline button controls vertical lines.

If you want more control over your gridlines, return to the Chart Options dialog box and choose the Gridlines tab (see Figure 15.9).

Figure 15.9. Controlling gridlines through the Chart Options dialog box.


By default, Graph places gridlines perpendicular to the data being charted, at the same points where values are shown along the axis. For example, if you create a bar graph in which the columns appear horizontally, the value axis is the x-axis, and the gridlines are displayed vertically from that axis. However, you can add gridlines for another axis, as shown in Figure 15.10.

Figure 15.10. Gridlines running both horizontally and vertically.


Gridlines placed at the same points as values are called major gridlines. If you want additional gridlines to appear between major gridlines, add minor gridlines. By default, Word does not display gridlines parallel to the data being charted (in other words, on another axis). But you can add these as well?both major and minor gridlines.

By default, Word displays gridlines in 3D so that it appears that they are at the "front wall" of the background behind your data points. If you prefer a 2D background?perhaps to deemphasize the background in contrast to the foreground data points?check the 2-D Walls and Gridlines check box.

Inserting a Legend

Legends are used to explain the color or pattern conventions used in a chart. Word enables them by default, but you can toggle a chart's legend on or off by clicking the Legend button on the Graph toolbar. Or, if you want to specify where the legend appears in your chart, display the Legend tab of the Chart Options dialog box (see Figure 15.11).

Figure 15.11. You can place a legend to the left, right, top, or bottom of the chart.


If Legends are disabled, check the Show Legend check box to place a legend in your chart; then choose Bottom, Corner, Top, Right, or Left to specify where the legend appears. (If you choose Corner, the legend appears at the upper right of the chart object.) Whichever choice you make, Word makes sure that the legend does not overlap other chart elements?unless you drag the legend to an overlapping location manually.

Adding or Changing Data Labels

By default, Graph inserts a chart without including the specific values or names associated with each data point. However, if your readers need to know specific values or names, you can add them. From the Chart Options dialog box, click the Data Labels tab (see Figure 15.12).

Figure 15.12. Inserting data labels through the Chart Options dialog box.



The Data Labels tab can also be found in the Format Data Series dialog box. You can open this dialog box by right-clicking a data marker and selecting Format Data Series from the shortcut menu.

You can display the Series Name each data point is associated with; the name of the x-axis column each data point is associated with (Category Name); or the Value associated with each data point. If you choose Value, Graph displays the same data that would appear in your legend.

In Figure 15.12 you can see that some of the Data labels buttons are completely disabled. Which options are available in this dialog box depends on the type of chart you're using. If your chart already has data labels and you want to remove them, clear each check box.

The data labels that Graph inserts in your chart are linked to the headings of the columns and rows displayed in the datasheet that Graph creates from your source data. Therefore, if you change the headings in your datasheet, Graph updates the label on your chart?whether or not you change the headings in your source document.


If data labels disappear when you resize your chart, see "What to Do If Your Chart Loses Data Labels After Resizing," in the "Troubleshooting" section of this chapter.

Adding Data Tables

You can use data tables to make sure that readers not only get the visual gist of the chart but also see the actual data on which it is based.

Data tables can be especially helpful if your data comes from a source other than the Word document where you are placing the chart. You can see an example of a data table in Figure 15.13.

Figure 15.13. A data table displays figures right on the chart.


graphics/tabledata.gif To insert a data table in your chart, click the Data Table button on the Standard toolbar. You can also insert a data table through the Chart Options dialog box, via the Data Table tab (see Figure 15.14).

Figure 15.14. Setting up a data table through the Chart Options dialog box.


This tab displays two check boxes. As its name implies, you can enable (or disable) data tables by clicking the Show Data Table check box.

The default data table includes legend keys next to its headings (refer to Figure 15.13). Legend keys give you the same color and pattern information you would normally place in a legend?so you don't need to use both. However, if you don't want to include the color and pattern information, you can clear the Show Legend Keys check box in the Data Table tab of the Chart Options dialog box.

    Part I: Word Basics: Get Productive Fast
    Part II: Building Slicker Documents Faster
    Part III: The Visual Word: Making Documents Look Great
    Part IV: Industrial-Strength Document Production Techniques
    Part VI: The Corporate Word