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EXCEL

Setting up Chart Axes

The Axes section of the Chart Wizard window allows you to choose whether the axes are displayed and, to some degree, how the X axis is labelled.  This section is not available for pie or doughnut charts as they don’t have any axes, for 3D charts you will have 3 axes to set.  Normally you will not need to change the axes but if you want to hide an axis you can un-tick the box beside it. The effect of the Axes section of this window can most easily be seen when plotting a line chart relating to different dates:

Date

Sales

01/01/01

900

01/02/01

1500

01/05/01

800

01/12/01

600

01/11/02

1400

01/06/02

1200

01/04/03

700

01/12/03

900

Notice that the data for 6/1/02 and 11/1/02 are out of order. If this data is plotted and the Axes section is set for the x-axis to be plotted as Category the chart shown below results:

There is one tick mark per category (data item) on the x-axis but they are not spaced according to the actual time periods between the values and the 1/11/02 and 1/6/02 categories are still not in the correct order. If the x-axis is set to Time-scale or Automatic then the chart displays correctly as below:

There is now one tick mark for every 3 months and the points are showing in the correct order.

Although Excel will automatically order the points on a line graph when dates are being used, it will not sort the values when numbers are used for the x-axis.  Instead, these numbers are treated as simple category labels like “Red, White, Blue” and are placed in the order they appear on the worksheet.  The graph below shows the result of using this data which has period numbers instead of dates.

Period

Sales

1

900

14

1500

17

800

24

600

35

1400

30

1200

40

700

48

900

Notice that the numbers on the x-axis are not in order and are not spaced according to their size.   If the data is sorted by period first then the graph shows the correct order but the categories are still not spaced according to value as shown below.

However, if the data is plotted as an XY scatter chart joined by a line the x-axis is adjusted to treat the periods as values and not categories and the chart shown below is more representative of the data.

For information on changing the axis labels and scales click here.

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