Repositioning of the Chart Formatting Tools in Excel 2013

Creating charts using Microsoft Excel is nothing new, this has been a core feature of Excel for a very long time. However, in Excel 2013 there are two significant changes to the chart making tools: the addition of the Recommended Charts tool, and the repositioning of the major chart formatting tools. Today, we will focus on the repositioning of the Chart formatting tools.

Starting back in the 2003 version of Excel, when a chart had been created or selected, extra contextual tabs of Chart Tools would appear at the top of the screen. In the 2007 and 2010 versions of Excel, those 3 tabs would appear under the Chart Tools: Design, Layout and Format. The Layout tab was the most important of these tabs because it contained the tools necessary to add, delete or adjust the many elements that make up a chart (Legend, Chart Title, Axis Titles, etc.).

However, in the 2013 version of Excel, only two Chart Tools tabs appear at the top of the screen – the Design and Format tabs. What happened to the most important tab and its associated tools? They have been repositioned to appear as icons that are displayed next to the chart on the worksheet as pictured below.

Let’s examine what each of these icons are and what they allow you to do when working with a chart. The three icons (from top to bottom) are Chart Elements, Chart Styles, and Chart Filters.

The Chart Elements icon when clicked will lead you to most of the tools that used to be located on the old Layout tab. This is the most important of the 3 icons, because it lets you customize the chart after it has been created. When you click on this icon a pop-up menu appears listing various chart elements that can be added or subtracted from the chart. Elements that are checked off are already visible on the chart, so checking any additional chart elements will add that element to the chart.

In the example below, we will add a title to the vertical axis of the chart, but the same general pattern of how to use these tools will apply to all other chart elements.

First of all, here is the menu that appears when the Chart Elements tool is clicked.

Note that when an unchecked element is selected, a small triangle appears to the right. After the desired element is checked, clicking on this triangle shows another menu of choices for that chart element.

Let’s say you only want a title on the Primary Vertical Axis – you’d uncheck the box next to the choice of Primary Horizontal to remove it from the chart, so only the Primary Vertical Axis Title would remain on the chart. This choice assumes you want your title text to be rotated vertically (the default choice), so now you want to change the orientation of the Axis title. The next step would be to click on the command “More Options…”.

This will then open up a Task Pane that will appear on the right side of the screen. In this pane, there will be icons across the top that will lead you to many more formatting/positioning choices for the selected chart element. In this example, clicking the Alignment icon reveals the Text Direction menu where the orientation of the Axis title can be changed.

This is only one example. As you begin to work with these tools you will realize that you still have all of the same tools for adding and formatting Chart elements as before, but you will access these tools in a completely new way.

Let’s now examine the other two icons that appear next to a selected chart. The second icon is labeled Chart Styles.

This is the least important of the 3 icons because it merely gives you another way to do something that is already available on the ribbon at the top of the screen, which is to change the layout of the chart using pre-defined styles. Clicking on one of these styles can be done from either the menu that appears next to the chart, or from the Chart Styles group on the ribbon.

However, the last icon that appears next to the selected chart gives you a new capability – the ability to Filter Chart data. In previous versions of Excel, the only type of chart that could be interactively filtered was a Pivot Chart (a chart that was based directly on data stored in a Pivot Table). Now this feature is available for all charts.

In this example, the chart is currently showing the data for 5 salespeople for 4 quarters. What if I only wanted the chart to display that data for 2 salespeople for 2 quarters? Clicking the Chart Filter icon reveals a menu that allows you to uncheck any series and/or categories you want removed from the chart so that only the checked items remain visible.

If you unchecked the names of the last three salespeople and unchecked the last two quarters and then clicked the Apply button at the bottom of the menu, your chart would show only the remaining items that are still checked.

That’s all for now.

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