9. Legends and Data Tables
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.
Legends on Excel charts
- Legends are needed when you have more than one row of data in a chart
- If you're only plotting one row of data, then delete the legend
- Legends can be placed anywhere on a chart, but the right-hand side is a sensible default option
- Legends update automatically when the name or colour of a data series changes
- Data tables shows the actual data that's plotted on the associated chart
- If a chart is plotted and labelled correctly, then a data table should not be needed
- In fact, a data table can distract a reader from the chart so use with caution
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 this solution. Legends by default are included on the right-hand side of a chart where you can move the position of the legend automatically by going to Add Chart Element and going to the Legend dropdown. We can show the legend at the top. We can show the legend on the left or we can even show the legend 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 I would like to bring one back, again go to Add Chart Element, go to the Legend dropdown and decide where you'd like to place your new legend. Here I'll place it again 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 I'd like to change the color of the top bar to a green, so I'll make the change and in my legend, you can see that the color next to Asia has also changed to green. So once you've created your legends 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. Again I'll go to Add Chart Element, and Data Table. And I'll show the Data Table underneath the chart. This takes all of 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 designed badly and so I tend to choose either the data table or the chart but not usually both. To remove a data table I can just select it and press Delete.