6. Adding Labels to Column Charts


Labels can be used on column charts instead of a vertical axis. However, they should only be used when you have a small number of data points on a chart.

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  1. Adding Data Labels (00:16)

    Data labels tell you the size of a data series. If your chart has only a few columns, they can be preferable to a vertical axis, as they tell you the exact size of the column. To add a data label, you right click a data series and select Add Data Labels. 

    Data labels have various formatting options. In a column chart, the number format of the data labels is linked to the number format of the vertical axis. If you adjust the vertical axis, for example switching from thousands to millions, the labels will adjust accordingly. You can also adjust the data labels by right clicking a label and selecting Format Data Labels. Here, you can adjust parameters like the number of decimal places in the data labels.

  2. Data Labels and Templates (02:12)

    Data labels are preserved as part of a chart style template. If you save the chart as a template, then apply that template to another chart, the data labels will be included, formatted in the same way as the template chart.

  3. Adjusting the Label Position (03:03)

    To change the position of data labels, right click on a label and select Format Data Labels. In the Format Data Labels window, the label position can be set to Center, Inside End or Inside Base. Center is the best option for stacked column charts.

    If you want to place the label above the column, you need to change the chart to a clustered column chart. To do this, right click the chart and select Change Chart Type. Then select the clustered column chart. Now when you open the Format Data Labels window, you’ll have the option to position the labels in the Outside End position.

    If you want to adjust the position of an individual label, click the label once to select all the labels, then click it again to select the individual label. You can then drag the label to the position you want.


If you have only a few columns on your chart, it might be worth adding data levels to your chart rather than having a vertical axis. In this lesson, we'll learn how to add data labels to a column chart. I much prefer to use data labels because I always want to know the exact size of the bars rather than having to eyeball it from the vertical access. To add data labels, just right-click on a data series and click add data labels.

To see the data labels clearly, I'll need to select them and change their color to white.

The data labels are determined by the vertical axis of your chart. Currently, the vertical axis shows millions, therefore, my data labels are shown in millions as well. If I change my vertical axis to say thousands by changing the display unit, the labels will change accordingly. I'll now switch this back to millions.

If we'd like to show the data labels in millions, but with one decimal point, we can select the data label, right-click and format data labels. I'll then go to number, switch the number category, and then reduce the decimal places to one, and then close.

Let's now repeat this for the second data category.

So I'll add data labels, change the color to white, and then right-click, format data labels, go to number, and include one decimal point.

And off-camera, I'll repeat for the last two data series.

So that we don't have to perform this action for future charts, I'll select the chart and also save this as a template, which will save my data labels in this format, and I'll simply save over the existing template that we saved in a previous lesson.

If I now want to apply this template to another chart, I'll select that chart, go to change chart type, templates, and select my template. This moves the labels to the middle of the bar, it puts the axis in millions, and it makes sure that the color is the same as the bottom color in my original chart.

Now that we have the labels in place, we can remove the axis because it doesn't really serve a purpose.

To change the position of a label, again, we'll select the labels, right-click, and format data labels, and in the label position option, we can put the label inside the end, inside the base, or at the center.

Typically, for stacked column charts, we'll leave the label at the center. If you'd like to put the label on top of the bar, unfortunately, the stacked column chart won't do. We'll need to change the chart type to the clustered column chart. So I'll escape, right-click, change chart type, and select the clustered column chart.

Now I'll select my data labels, right-click, and format data labels, and here we have an option for outside end under position. I'll select it and then click close.

I'll now change the color of my labels to a dark blue.

And now we have the labels positioned above the bars just as we'd like.

Sometimes you may need to change the position of one particular label, particularly if the bar is very small. To do this, simply select all the labels by clicking once and isolate the label by clicking twice. You can now move this label within the chart to a position that suits your needs. I'll now undo with control-Z. For charts with less than 10 data points, I find labels to be more useful than a vertical axis. Consider using them next time you have a chart of this type.

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