9. Legends and Data Tables

Overview

Legends and data tables are both used to enhance the audience's understanding of chart. Find out how to use and format this tools in this lesson.

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Summary

  1. Chart Legends (00:03)

    Legends explain what each color on a chart refers to. Legends are needed when you have more than one row of data in your chart. To add a legend to a chart, select the chart, then from the Design tab in the ribbon, select Add Chart Element, and Legend. You can then select where to place the legend. By default, legends are placed to the right of the chart. If you’re only plotting one row of data, then the legend isn’t needed and can be deleted.

    Legends update automatically when you make changes to your chart. For example, if you change the color of one of the segments of a column chart, then the color in the legend will update automatically. As a result, you don’t need to worry about modifying legends after you create them.

  2. Data Tables (01:37)

    Data tables take all the source data for a chart, and add it underneath the chart in a table. To add one to a chart, select the chart, then from the Design tab in the ribbon, select Add Chart Element, and Data Table. If you feel a data table is necessary, then it can be an indication that the chart is designed badly. For this reason, most Excel users don’t use data tables that often.

Transcript

In the previous lesson, we learned how to format the title of a chart. In this lesson, we'll learn how to add a legend or data table to a chart.

Chart legends are needed when you have more than one row of data in your chart. In this example, we need to understand which color corresponds to each region, and the legend provides the solution. By default, legends are included on the right-hand side of a chart. We can move the position of the legend automatically by going to Add Chart Element and then the Legend dropdown.

We can show the legend at the top, on the left, or even at the bottom.

If you have a chart with only one data series, such as this example, a legend will be created when you build the chart. However, the information included in the legend is already included in the title of the chart, so a legend isn't actually needed.

If you've deleted a legend and would like to bring one back, again, go to Add Chart Elements, the Legend dropdown, and decide where you'd like to place your new legend. We'll place it on the right.

The great thing about legends in Excel is that they update automatically when you've made changes to your chart. Say, for example, we'd like to change the color of the top bar to a green.

We'll make the change, and in the legend, we can see that the color next to Asia has also changed to green.

So once you've created your legend in Excel, you can pretty much forget about it and make all the changes you want, because the legend will update automatically.

If you don't think that the legend clearly identifies the bars in your chart, you can also add a data table.

To do this, we'll go to Add Chart Element and Data Table.

We'll show the data table underneath the chart.

This takes all the source data for the chart and writes it underneath the chart itself. Some companies tend to use data tables a lot, but I actually think that if a data table is needed, it means that the chart is poorly designed. As a result, I tend to choose either the data table or the chart, but usually not both. To remove a data table, we can select it and press Delete.

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