types of charts in excel

How Many Types of Charts Are Available in Excel?

Microsoft Excel provides a robust set of charting capabilities to visualize data trends, compare metrics, and communicate insights through graphical representations. If we divide them into categories, there are 11 main types of charts available in Excel. These include Column Charts, Bar Charts, Line Charts, Pie Charts, Scatter Plot Charts, Area Charts, Doughnut Charts, Radar, Stocks, Histograms, and Waterfall Charts.

This article will walk through these 11 main types of charts available in Excel, their common use cases, formatting options, and design considerations to inform your visualization approach.

11 Types of Charts in Excel

1. Column Charts

The column chart displays vertical columns across a horizontal axis, which is useful for time-based trends like sales growth over the years. Column types include:

  • Clustered Columns: Multiple data series
  • Stacked: Values stacked atop each other
  • 100% Stacked: Values stretch fully vertically

Use When: Comparing distinct values across categories like department expenses.

2. Bar Charts

The bar chart is the horizontal version of column charts, with horizontal bar lengths shown against a vertical axis. Bar types consist of:

  • Clustered: Multiple data series
  • Stacked: Values atop one another
  • 100% Stacked: Bars fully horizontally stretched

Use When: Presenting data associated with specific labels like product sales.

3. Line Charts

As the name suggests, line charts display series as lines across an x/y axis. They showcase trends effectively when there are many data points. Types include:

  • Basic Line: Single data series
  • Stacked: Multiple stacked data series
  • 100% Stacked: Overlapping lines totaling 100%

Use When: Highlighting trends over time with many data points like weekly website visitors.

4. Pie Charts

The circular pie chart splits a whole into sectors representing component percentages. Variations include:

  • Basic Pie: Simple percentages
  • Exploded Pie: Detaches select slices
  • 3D Pie: Adds depth

Use When: Displaying proportional breakdowns like market share between competitors.

5. XY (Scatter) Plots

Scatter plots display values across both the x and y axes to exhibit correlations between two variables. Types are:

  • Basic Scatter: Raw data points
  • Smooth Lines: Curves through data
  • Smooth Markers: Curved line with markers

Use When: Revealing relationships between values like sales vs. ad spending.

Recommended reading: How to Make a Scatter Plot in Excel with Two Sets of Data

6. Area Charts

Area charts are stacked line graphs emphasizing volume between a baseline. Types include:

  • Basic Area: Single data series
  • Stacked: Multiple data sets stacked
  • 100% Stacked: Stacked fully to the vertical axis

Use When: Highlighting the magnitude of change over time like department expenses annually.

7. Doughnut Charts

Doughnut charts are essentially pie charts with a hole in the center, magnifying differences between percentages. Variants:

  • Basic Doughnut
  • Exploded Doughnut

Use When: Drawing attention to data slice proportions like customer acquisition channels.

8. Radar Charts

The radar chart’s spider-web appearance plots metrics along spokes from a center point. Used for:

  • Basic Radar: Comparing multivariate data points
  • Filled Radar: Area between lines filled

Use When: Displaying multiple comparing factors like employee competencies.

9. Stock Charts

These specialized graphs present fluctuating stock values using high/low/close values. Types:

  • High-Low-Close: High, low, and closing values
  • Open-High-Low-Close: Adds opening value
  • Volume-High-Low-Close: Adds volume traded

Use When: Visualizing stock price patterns over time.

10. Histogram Charts

Histograms group data ranges into vertical bins showing value frequencies. Used for:

  • Basic Histogram: Bars representing frequencies
  • Pareto Histogram: Bars ordered from the most frequent

Use When: Analyzing statistical distribution shape or Pareto 80/20 rule.

11. Waterfall Charts

The waterfall chart shows cumulative positive and negative changes between metric starting and ending values. Best for:

  • Basic Waterfall: Representing deficit/surplus effects
  • Subtotal Waterfall: Intermediate subtotals

Use When: Connecting factors bridging between two amounts like analyzing profitability contributors.

Chart Selection Considerations in Excel

Even though Excel offers a large chart palette, not every chart is suitable for every type of data. Here are some chart selection considerations in Excel:

Data Structure: Certain visuals handle structured vs. unstructured data better

Data Volume: Simple charts beat complex ones with fewer data points

Trends Over Time: Line charts spotlight time-based trends well

Part-to-Whole: Pie charts best show proportional contributions to a whole

Correlations: Scatter plots handle correlating multivariate data points

Layering & Comparison: Bars/columns/areas allow stacking multiple data sets

Style & Formatting: Well-designed aesthetics enhance communication effectiveness

Audience: Chart clarity and complexity should align with the audience’s technical proficiency

Storytelling: Order charts in sequences that logically build analysis narratives

With knowledge of Excel’s expansive charting options plus purposeful decision-making, as you structure analytics content, it becomes easy to select the right visual for data insights to leap off the page.

Key Takeaways

The wide selection of built-in chart types available within Excel provides flexibility to apply the ideal chart for various datasets and what you aim to highlight.

Yet with the freedom to quickly insert many complex novel chart formats comes the responsibility to carefully consider intended messaging before determining chart choice and design.

By matching visuals with clarity and purpose to the trends and stories living within your datasets, Excel charts transform from nuanced decorations into irreplaceable analysis assets able to convince, teach, and inspire.

So be sure to leverage Excel’s full charting toolbox to make an impact with your data presentations!

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