Using the Recommended Charts Tool 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 re-positioning of the major chart formatting tools. Today, we will focus on the Recommended Charts tool.

When teaching people how to make charts, I often state that the hardest part of making a chart is actually deciding what type of chart best represents the data the chart is built on.

Knowing if a Pie, Line, Column or Bar chart is the best choice is not always an intuitive choice. Way back in the history of Excel (2003 and earlier versions) there was a tool called the Chart Wizard that provided a 4 step process to create a chart. The first step in this process offered a way to view sample charts of different types based on the selected data. However, the Chart Wizard was eliminated from Excel starting with the 2007 version. In recent years, a user would have to essentially guess what type of chart provided the best visual representation of their data by selecting the Chart Type from the ribbon, and then hoping the resulting chart fit the bill. If it didn’t, the user could always delete the chart initially selected and then try another type of chart, but this was still a hit-or-miss process.

In a sense, the Recommended Charts button is a “back to the future” type of feature that allows users to first see how selected data would be represented on a variety of chart types before committing to a particular type of chart. Let’s take a look at where and how this tool works.

In the following example, a spreadsheet containing selected quarterly sales data is shown. After the data is selected, the user needs to click on the Insert Tab, and in the Charts group will find the Recommended Charts button as pictured below.

Clicking on this button will open up the Recommended Charts dialog box as pictured below.

In this dialog box, several different styles of charts are presented in a column on the left hand side, with a preview of the selected Recommended Chart displayed on the right. If the initial chart selected is not showing the data in the manner desired, the user can scroll down the list of other types of Recommended Charts and see what the other options look like as illustrated below.

When the user decides which Recommended Chart best displays the data, a simple click on the OK button then places the desired chart into the spreadsheet.

At this point, the chart is not complete – additional Chart elements may need to be added, but at least the decision about what type of chart to create has been made easier.

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