About chart types

Use a


Column chart icon Bar chart icon

Column chart or
bar chart

Compare two or more numerical values taken on different dates or under different conditions. Good for comparing increases to decreases, highest with lowest, how many, or how often.

A single-series column or bar chart is good for comparing values within a data category, such as monthly sales of a single product. A multiseries column or bar chart is good for comparing categories of data, such as monthly sales for several products.

Use a line chart to compare more than 15 data points.

Stacked column chart icon Stacked bar chart icon

Stacked column or stacked bar chart

Compare parts to the whole. Each column or bar in the chart compares multiple data points within a category. Use a stacked bar chart to compare the annual sales figures for products over several years. Each segment of each bar compares specific product sales, each bar shows total product sales per year, and the entire chart compares total sales for all years.

To chart a single data series, such as sales in one region, use a pie chart.

Positive/negative chart icon

Positive/negative column chart

Compare positive and negative values. Positive values appear above a mid-point (zero, by default) and negative values appear below the mid-point. You can set a custom mid-point. Use a positive/negative chart to compare earnings to losses or to track productivity over time.

Pie chart icon

Pie chart

Show the relationship of each data series value to the total of all data in the series charted. Best for showing proportions within a single data series. You can display percentage values for each data point (slice of the pie).

Pie charts are most effective when at least some of the slices represent 25% to 50% of the whole. Because it's difficult to compare individual sections within a pie chart or to compare data between pie charts, pie charts are commonly used when a general comparison is all that's required.

Line chart icon

Line chart

Show data that changes continuously (trends) over time, such as historical financial information. Line charts connect a contiguous series of data points with a line. Each data point represents an individual measurement. Line charts are good for showing the rise and fall of data over time.

Use a line chart to compare the monthly sales totals of four regions over the span of a year. Charting the same data series as a bar chart makes it easy to compare totals by region. To display upward and downward trends or cycles across all regions, use a line chart.

Area chart icon

Area chart

Show data that trends over time while emphasizing highs, lows, and movement between data points. In charts containing multiple data series, the quantitative difference between each data series is emphasized by the different colors in the chart.

Scatter chart icon

Scatter chart

Plot x and y coordinates as individual values to reveal correlation patterns. If the trend of data values rises from left to right, the trend is considered positive. If the trend falls from left to right, the trend is considered negative. If data points reveal no clear slope, the data is considered not correlated. A scatter chart can compare large numbers of data points without regard to time. Use a scatter chart to compare the number of beverages sold at a restaurant as the temperature changed throughout the day.

Bubble chart icon

Bubble chart

Plot x and y coordinates as individual values with a third data characteristic (the radius of each bubble). Bubble charts compare individual data points in terms of size (magnitude). Use a bubble chart to compare market share by comparing the number of products sold, sales figures per product, and the percentage of total sales in each data point.