Google Sheets – Creating charts (part 1)

Continuing the theme from my last post on sparklines, a chart really is worth a thousand numbers. In this post I’ll show you how quick and easy it is to create full charts.

We’ll quickly look at:

  • Creating and inserting a chart
  • Moving a chart to its own sheet
  • Saving & copying a chart

Then we’ll look at the various options available within Quick Edit mode

  • Graph
  • Axis
  • Legend
  • Axis area
  • Chart area
  • Titles, etc

Creating and inserting simple chart

Here we have some sales figures.

1) To create a chart, first select the months and the figures.

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2) On the toolbar, click the “Insert chart” icon

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3) This opens the chart editor and shows you a preview of the chart it has created. For now, let’s just insert into our sheet by clicking on the blue button “Insert”.

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This places a chart on your sheet, and quite often right over your data, so you’ll have to move it. Just click once on a white part to select it, then click and hold to drag it to a new position on the sheet.

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As you can see, it’s added the months on the x axis for you and it’s worked out quite a good y axis scale for you.


Moving a chart to its own sheet

Sometimes it’s fine having the chart on the same sheet as your data, but there are times when you want to just show the chart and also you may want the chart to be bigger and there isn’t space on the sheet, without affecting your data or without having to move around the sheet.

1) Click on the little triangle in the right-hand corner of the chart, to open the menu.

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2) Click on “Move to own sheet”.

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This will create a new tab and the chart will be displayed full size.

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Copying a chart / Saving an image of a chart

The full size view is particularly useful if you want to copy the chart to somewhere else, where you are just displaying the chart in details, for in Google Slides.

Open the same menu as before, you click on “Copy chart”. This adds it to your clipboard and you can paste it to another Google App, for example, Google Docs or Slides.

Another way to get a copy of the chart is to save an image of it, which is useful for pasting into other documents or programs. From the same menu again, click on “Save image”. This will open a dialogue box asking what to call the image and where to save it on your local hard drive.


View / Quick edit mode

To the top right of the chart, there are two icons, the eye and the pencil.

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Click on the eye icon to select view mode. This will prevent the chart being accidently edited and also it allows you to see the data values for each of the bars as you hover over them.

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However, when you are first creating the chart you will want to be in quick edit mode, which can be selected by clicking on the pencil. When the chart is first created it is by default in this mode.


Quick Edit mode

There are a wide range of ways you can edit the graph whilst in quick edit mode, without entering the full chart editor.  Let’s edit this chart in a variety of ways to show you some of the ways you can edit your own charts.

Important: The first thing to be aware of is that most of these different editing options will depend on where you click on the chart.


Clicking on the graph

Click on one of the blue bars in the graph and this brings up the graph options:

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Change colour

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Change side of the y axis (left or right)

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Add data values to the graph

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Clicking on the y axis

Click on the y axis of the graph and this brings up the y axis options:

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Min / Max

Type in the range you want and press “Enter”. You don’t have to enter both, for example, you can add just a maximum figure.

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You can also change the font size, colour and add bold or italics.


Clicking on the x axis

Click on the x axis of the graph and this brings up, surprise, surprise, the x axis options:

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As above, you can change the font size, colour and add bold or italics.

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Plus, you can change the orientation of the words on the x axis.

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Clicking on the legend

The font can be changed, plus, you can control where you put the legend.

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To change the position, click on “Right”, then select the position you want.

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Clicking on the white part of the graph (axis area)

This controls the way the axis area looks.

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Moving along the top row of icons. The first changes the background colour.

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The next one changes the opacity of the colour, which if you reduce it from 100%, will lighten the colour.

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The next one controls the number of horizontal gridlines, which also automatically changes the y axis numbers.

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The last one, changes the colour of the gridlines. Here I’ve changed them to black.

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On the row below, there are two more options, “Move & Resize” and “Fit to area”. Click on “Move & Resize” to do just that, it allows you to resize the graph (vertically and horizontally) and move to where you want it within the chart area.

Here I’ve widened it and made it a bit taller. Note, the data labels have changed automatically.

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To exit the editing, just click on the white outside of the axis area. To return it back to its original size and position, click on “Fit to area”.


Left-clicking on the chart area outside of the graph area

Click on the white area surrounding the graph (axis area) and the chart area menu will appear.

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There are 3 options, the first controls the font of the axis and data labels.

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The second changes the fill colour of the area surrounding the chart. Here I’ve gone for a tasteful shade of red, but for a reason. If you notice, this has also changed the axis area colour to a kind of orange. This is because this fill changes the colour of the entire chart box, and as I changed the opacity of the axis area to 40%, this means that some of the colour behind it is showing through. So, we end up with a mixture of yellow and red, which of course makes orange.

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The third option controls the opacity of the chart area background colour, so here I’ve dropped it to 20%, which is far more subtle. As you can see it also lightened the axis area colour.

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Right-clicking on the chart area

All the above involve LEFT-clicking on various areas, the final set of options involves right-clicking anyway on the chart. This brings up the menu below.

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The “Chart area” and “Legend” options open the same options as described above.

Series selects a specific range of data, but as we only have one here, let’s ignore that for now.


Title

Click on “Title” to add a chart title. You can change the font size, etc too.

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Axis

Click on “Axis” and this brings up various axis options. We’ve seen most of these already. The only ones we haven’t are the Horizontal & Left Vertical titles. These give you the option to add names to the respective axis.

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To add a label to the Y axis, click on “Left vertical axis title”. Then type in the name you want and press Enter.

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Change chart

Finally, you can of course change the type of chart. Click on “Change chart” and you have a selection of the most popular charts. Just click on the one you want.

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Here I selected Line chart.

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Summary of the quick edit options

  • Clicking on graph
    • Change colour
    • Change y axis
    • Add/remove data values
  • Y axis options
    • Min/Max
    • Font size, etc
  • X axis options
    • Font size, etc
    • Orientation of text
  • Legend
    • Font size, etc
    • Position
  • Axis area
    • Background colour & opacity
    • Number of gridlines
    • Gridline colour
    • Move & resize graph
  • Chart Area
    • Background colour
    • Font size & style
  • Right click
    • Chart area
    • Title
    • Legend
    • Axis
    • Series
    • Change chart

The best thing is to just play around with various options to get to know the controls, then you’ll be creating charts a little more tasteful than mine!


eBooks now available on Drive, Forms, Sheets, Docs, and Slides:

Baz Roberts (Flipboard / Twitter / Google+)


3 thoughts on “Google Sheets – Creating charts (part 1)

  1. Thank you for the careful and detailed work you are doing in developing learning pathways for Google Sheets. It is greatly appreciated and helpful in gaining efficiencies in a suite of apps that have surprisingly little support. I am grateful.

    • Thank you very much Ross. It’s true that the information out there is quite sporadic. That was one of the reasons why I created this blog, so there was one place where someone can start from zero and start using these tools on a day to day basis.

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