# 8 Types of Excel charts and graphs and when to use them

Excel offers a wide variety of tables and charts, each designed to help you visualize data in a unique way. However, choosing the right chart is not always easy. Let’s break down the basic types of Excel charts and how to use them effectively.

## 1 Bar chart

In an Excel bar chart, each data point is represented by a rectangular horizontal bar. The length of each bar is determined by the size of the corresponding value in the data set. A bar graph is useful when you want to make a quick side-by-side comparison of categorical data (eg countries, colors, software types, modes of transport, marital status).

You can insert the graph into Excel by selecting the dataset and going to**Insert**

and clicking on the desired chart type**Charts**

tape group. You can then customize them by changing the colors and layout, or adding chart elements such as axis titles.

Let’s look at an example of a bar graph showing the usage of different browsers over the years.

By looking at this bar, you can easily see which browsers have gained and lost users over time.

## 2 Bar chart

A bar chart is another type of chart that compares different categories of data side by side. It’s basically a bar chart with bars placed vertically instead of horizontally.

In the same example using the browser over the years, you can see that the bars have just been placed vertically, but it works with the same data as a bar chart.

Bar charts are usually the main method for visualizing data like this example. However, if the category names are long, they would be cluttered in the small space provided by a bar chart. In such cases, a bar graph is a better choice.

## 3 Line graph

A line graph shows changes in a set of data over time by connecting two data points with a line. This is useful when you have continuous data (such as height, weight, temperature, and stock prices) and want to make comparisons based on upward or downward trends.

Our example shows a line graph of the monthly sales performance of two branches for a year (January to December).

In this case, the line graph will tell us quickly **Branch 1** showing steady growth throughout the year while **Branch 2** has some fluctuations.

## 4 Area chart

An area chart is a variation of a line chart that also shows changes over time. However, each line has a colored area below it that highlights increases and decreases in volume during that period. This makes comparisons with an area graph more striking than a line graph and gives you an idea of the area under the curve.

Using the same data as the line chart, you can create the area chart below. However, since the areas are filled, you can get a visual idea of the differences between the two branches. If you want to get an accurate measurement, you will need to calculate the area under the plots using formulas.

## 5 Point plot

A scatter plot or bubble chart uses dots plotted on the X and Y axes to show the correlation or relationship between data points in a two-dimensional graph. If you notice a trend between two data sets and want to know how the values of one could potentially affect the other, a scatter plot can help.

Here is a scatter plot showing a positive correlation between study time and test scores. The graph shows that the more a person studies (X-axis), the higher the test score (Y-axis).

A scatter plot allows you to add trend lines to help predict data patterns and validate a data set. A trend line is a straight line that best fits the plotted points and follows the general direction of the data. If the data is not linear, the line follows the closest possible path.

## 6 Pie chart

A pie chart is designed to mirror the division of a pie chart into slices. It is essentially a pie chart where data points are represented by sectors proportional to their corresponding value in the data set. You should use a pie chart when you want to show how each data point contributes to the whole.

The pie chart below shows how the total budget is divided among the company’s departments. A quick look reveals that marketing and operations make up more than half of the budget.

## 7 Histogram

A histogram shows how grouped data points are distributed within a range. It uses a series of bars (called bins in Excel) that represent ranges of values and show how often certain values occur within them. A histogram essentially works like a bar graph, but it shows ranges of categories rather than individual ones. This makes the histogram effective for identifying which ranges have the most or least data points in a dataset.

For example, based on the histogram below, we can say that more students have read 1-3 books, while fewer students have read more.

## 8 Combination table

A combo chart in Excel combines two or more chart types, such as a bar chart and a line chart, into one visual. It’s ideal for comparing data sets with different metrics—such as sales in dollars next to profit margins in percentages.

This type of chart not only highlights trends and relationships between different metrics, but also offers a clearer perspective by displaying all important data in one place. It’s especially useful for spotting patterns that might be missed when viewing individual graphs, making it easier to analyze complex data sets at a glance. You can easily see all the key metrics at a glance because they are in one place.

Above is a combination chart showing the positive relationship between increasing sales (bar graph) and increasing profit margins (line graph).

Any good spreadsheet application will have a good selection of charts that you can use in different scenarios. In fact, you’ll find that most of the Excel charts above are also available as charts in Google Sheets. Just make sure you use them in the right scenario to get the most accurate analysis possible!