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Excel 2003 for Starters: The Missing Manual by Matthew MacDonald

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Practical Charting

Figure 9-1 shows you how to chart a list that contains two columns you want to graph—one with text labels, and one with the numeric data. But in real life, you probably need to deal with many different types of data that occupy many different configurations on your worksheet.

Think for a minute about all the possible variations on the simple sales chart shown in Figure 9-1. For example, you may need to compare the sales figures but, rather than showing region-to-region comparisons, you want to show how well (or poorly) each of your firm's products sold. Or perhaps you want to chart the quarterly performance of different stores over a five-year period, or determine the relationship between sales and profitability. All these charts require a slightly different arrangement of data. In the next section, you'll get a quick introduction to all these possibilities, using just the simple column chart and line chart.

Charts with Multiple Series of Numbers

A series is the sequence of numbers that you plot on a graph. In the simple chart example (Figure 9-1), there's just one series of numbers, which represents the sales figures for a company's different regions. Of course, a real chart usually adds extra layers of detail. For example, you may want to compare the sales figures from several different years. In this case, you'd add a separate column to your worksheet data for each year. Then you'd add each column to your chart as a separate series.

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