Excel: Creating Basic Charts Quickly

As a student or even a future teacher, time is very limited. Knowing ways to save time are crucial and can save us extra work. Putting together presentations and projects can be very stressful and time consuming. Not only do you have to focus on the content of the presentation, but also on how the presentation looks and how it is delivered. Different programs now have numerous tools to make presentations and projects look polished and professional. Despite this asset, if you don’t know how to use these tools to your advantage it can be very time consuming and stressful.

When creating graphs for presentations and projects, especially when working with Microsoft Excel, there are many shortcut keys to save users time and work. In the lynda.com course named Excel 2010: Charts in Depth, chapter 2 is about and entitled Creating Basic Charts Quickly. This chapter includes 5 videos spanning 16 minutes that cover different ways to create charts differently and more importantly, quickly. This blog post will only cover the first 4 videos. Although this lynda.com course covers Excel 2010 for Windows users, Mac users can find similar information in the course Excel for Mac 2011 Essential Training in chapter 6 entitled Working with charts.

The first video entitled Selecting data to display as a chart is a basic overview of the importance of what data you include within a chart. This is important in deciding what data will make your chart easy to understand. In addition to stressing the importance of what data you include, this chapter also shows users how to select contiguous and noncontiguous ranges of cells. When selecting contiguous ranges of data the user just clicks and drags to select adjacent data. In order to select noncontigous or non adjacent ranges of cells, you must click and drag and then hold down the control button for Windows or the command button for Mac users and then click and drag to select the rest of the non adjacent range.

Pie Chart Screenshot of 1st graders success in the school fundrasier

Chart of 1st graders success in the school fundraiser

An example of when you would need to create a chart using non contiguous data would be in order to show just a specific portion of your data. If I was a teacher who wanted to show which of the three items in the fundraiser the 1st graders had the most success with, I would create a pie chart using only the data from the 1st graders. I would select the column that has the labels of cookie dough, magazines, and wrapping paper in addition to the amount of money made in order to create this specific chart. This creates a pie chart that shows the different amounts of the first graders sales in a pie chart that easily shows which of the three the first graders had the most success with. From the chart you can conclude they had the most success with wrapping paper.

Clustered column chart created by selecting data and holding down alt+F11

Clustered column chart created by selecting data and holding down alt+F11

The second video called Creating charts instantly with shortcuts discusses the two major key strokes within Excel that let you create charts instantly. If you select the data you want in your chart and hit F11, it will instantly create a new chart on a new page for you. The new chart defaults as a clustered column chart. You can change this default if you would like in your settings. If you select the data you want in your chart and hit alt+F1, Excel will create a new chart on the same page as your data as opposed to creating a new page when you hit F11.

Screenshot showing how to create a chart manually on Excel for Mac

Screenshot showing the different types of charts to choose from on Excel for Mac

In Creating charts with standard menu commands, this video teaches users how to create charts manually using the ribbon instead of shortcuts. A user will start by once again selecting the data they want to include in their chart. They will then go up to the ribbon at the top of the window and if you are working on a Windows computer you will click insert. There are various different charts to choose from including column, line, pie and bar. Within these different charts there are more options to choose from in regards to the display of the chart. Once you select which chart you want, it creates it and it appears on the same page as the data. If you are working on a Mac, instead of clicking an insert tab in the ribbon, you will click a charts tab in the ribbon. This option is shown in the screenshot displayed above. Once you’ve created these quick charts there are vital parts of it missing that set it apart from being just a chart to a presentational chart.

Screenshot of a presentation ready chart with added title, axis labels and legend.

Screenshot of presentation ready chart. Title, axis labels, and legend are now included.

The next video, Creating presentation-ready charts with just a few adjustments,  discusses how to put finishing touches on already made charts for presentation purposes. Once you select a chart there are many different layout options on the chart ribbon to choose from in order to include axis, labels, titles, and legends to get your chart ready to present. I used this layout option to add a title at the top of the chart, axis labels on the x axis and the y axis as well as a legend showing which colors represent the different items sold in the fundraiser. It is now ready for presentations, allowing your audience to understand the data being presented.

After watching this chapter from lynda.com, I have learned new ways to efficiently use Excel to my advantage! These skills will allow me to create polished and professional charts that I will be able to use in school and in the real world too. Being able to create charts to use in your classroom can be very helpful. If you need more help making an Excel spreadsheet look polished and professional check out Maria H.’s blog post Formatting a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. If you need to learn about how to calculate data within a spreadsheet the blog post by Anna B. entitled Excel: Using Formulas and Functions for Calculations can give you more information! If you want to create spreadsheets through Google Drive for a project or presentation read Victoria B.’s Creating Spreadsheets in Google Drive to help you! As future teachers, what ways could you use spreadsheets, charts and graphs in your classroom? Please comment below your thoughts on these cool short cuts as well as ways you use Excel too.

This entry was posted in lynda.com, MS Excel, Spreadsheets. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Excel: Creating Basic Charts Quickly

  1. Sara R. says:

    Winna–what an informative post! I recently had to put a chart into an essay and had a lot of trouble doing so–I really wish I had your post to refer to when I did that. I can definitely see myself using this to show my students their progression of test scores throughout the year. Thanks for the post!

  2. Steph G. says:

    Winna, you did an awesome job! These are probably some of the best screenshots I have seen. The colors and designs really make them pop! I like that you explain your graph examples in real life terms, it makes it much easier to relate to. I These are such helpful hints to have, because I totally agree that time is very limited. I could definitely see myself using charts like these in the future to track students progression, like Sara said above! Thanks for all the information!

  3. Victoria B. says:

    Winna, your blog post was so helpful! I cannot tell you how many times I have tried (and failed) to create graphs using Microsoft Excel. Every time I attempted to do so, the graphs ended up being incorrect and I ended up being incredibly frustrated. After reading your post, I am glad to say that I have a better general idea of how to create charts and graphs using Excel and I am definitely going to watch the corresponding Lynda videos!

  4. Maria H. says:

    Great job with this post, Winna! I never use Excel because it is so scary, and I always make weird-looking graphs on Microsoft Word instead. It is so difficult to format them and change them around, though. But after reading this post, making charts with Excel isn’t hard at all! And I didn’t know that you could create all different kinds- like pie charts, bar graphs, sparklines, and more! In an English as a Second Language classroom, I can see myself using these charts as visual aids for helping the students learn about money exchanges with pie charts. There are multiple uses, and all of your examples are great!

  5. Mary F. says:

    I can honestly say that I knew none of the information in your blog post before I read it. I just don’t use excel that often and when I do I do it the slowest most simple way. All this new information will definitely help me save time. I didn’t realize that you could put a graph on a page with a single keystroke, that information is so helpful! I can definitely see myself using charts in excel for so many different things in the classroom and all these tips will help that. Thank you!

  6. Chelsea S. says:

    Wonderful post, Winna! You wrote it really well and the transition between videos was flawless! I have not had the need to create charts like this before, but I’m sure I will come across the need one day soon! One of the things that come to mind when I think of tracking students progress using these graphs is that I can send graphs to their parents for them to see easily see their child’s progress. When I shadowed in a Kindergarten classroom back in January, one of the student’s parents didn’t speak English, only Spanish. While all of the class announcements were translated for them, having a chart showing their child’s progression throughout the class makes it easier for them to understand and leaves for no miscommunication.

    • Tabitha C. says:

      I completely agree with you Chelsea! I was also going to point out the seamless transitions between videos. Charts are essential in a classroom and so much easier, neater, and more practical to make in Excel than hand draw and write. Thanks for the help Winna!

  7. Alexia M. says:

    Winna, just as I have said on the other blog posts, I have not used excel in a very long time. I certainly never knew that creating charts would be so quick and easy! It is very helpful to know that if I ever want to make a chart, it is not as difficult as I think it is, and I can do it on excel rather than trying for a long time to make one on word. Since I want to teach 1st grade, it is very likely that we will be using basic charts in the classroom to introduce them to the concept of them. This will be very helpful for that!

  8. Katie H. says:

    Winna, you chose a very helpful topic to write your blog about! Similar to what I have said before, Microsoft Excel has always intimidated me because it never seemed like a program I was meant to use. I used to think it was just for business people to use, but after reading all of these posts I know so many more tools in Excel that I can use in my classroom. Creating charts quickly will be very helpful because the children can handwrite charts and they can be easily changed to an online format that the whole class will be able to read. The simplicity of the tool makes it so much more useful and allows almost all students to use the chart feature. Thanks for a great post!

  9. Angie E. says:

    Hey Winna great work! Thanks for using the example of a school fundraiser for your sample spreadsheet and charts. I know I’ll have to do something similar someday. Charts have been the aspect of Excel I am least intimidated by because they can be so simple. I never knew about the keyboard shortcuts that make creating them even easier! Charts are such a great way for students (and me) to make sense of numbers and understand their significance. Excel charts are easy enough for most elementary school students to create, and with all th fun formatting and labeling tools, what kid wouldn’t want to?

  10. Anna B. says:

    Hey Winna! This is such an informative post-thanks!! I am not a huge Excel user, so I really had no idea about how to create charts and graphs, and I definitely had no idea about the shortcuts! Your post is very detailed and really teaches the reader how to do all these great things! I know now how easy it is to make a graph, and how useful they can be when trying to determine information. As a teacher I know that I can make graphs and charts to provide a visual to my students, and for myself when looking at things such as which test had the lowest average score for example. Great job!

  11. Laura H. says:

    I absolutely love ways to save time, and you did an excellent job giving me a new way to! I am a person often stuck in my ways, but I will definitely adjust the way I create excel charts, since the method you explained is clearly more efficient! Future time saving Laura thanks you for that!

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