Creating charts and graphs with google spreadsheets

Google spreadsheets have several great options for manipulating data and creating charts and graphs for reports. It has several excellent features to add and manipulate data which are great for creating attractive presentations. Several times presentations require working with tons of data and you have to present it in a chart or graphical format. Moreover, you would need to make it attractive to engage the audience’s attention. All of this becomes easier with the features included in google spreadsheets and you cannot just make excellent charts and graphs, but also integrate them easily into your documents through the google docs. First let’s try creating a simple graph using a few rows and columns of data.

Creating a basic graph/chart using google spreadsheets : Add data for the chart

add data with headers

To create a graph add data with headers. Go to Insert tab and click on chart. This will create a column chart for you (default option). The chart editor will show on the right. If it does not, just right click on the chart area and select chart style. If you want a different chart than the existing one, you can select a different chart type from the editor. 

Select chart type: Go to the chart editor.

Apart from the column chart, you can select bar chart, stacked bar chart, area chart, pie chart etc.  There are several options and you can select any depending upon your need. The editor has two parts and you will find these features in the setup part. 

At the top of the Set up, you have the option to select chart type. Below it you will find the /option to select stacking and data range. You can select none stacking or standard stacking or 100% stacking. Under that you have the option to select the data range. 

The initial chart that  you get is rather blank without labels. To add labels you have to go to the bottom in the Set up part to X axis.

Adding labels to your chart:

In the data we have taken above, Items are on the horizontal axis and prices on the vertical axis. In the X axis box (on the set up tab in chart editor), click on the right side to open the drop down menu. A popup will open asking you to select the data range. Select the entire first column including the header. Hit enter.

If you do not want to add labels to the X axis just move on to series. Again click on the three dots on the right and select add labels from the drop down menu. A popup will open asking you to select a data range. Select the second column and hit enter. This will add labels to the chart.

Customizing your chart :-

You can further customize your chart to make it look more attractive. The chart editor has two parts: set up and customize. Select customize from the top and click.

You can customize the following from this part:

  • – Chart style
  • – Chart & axis titles
  • – Series
  • – Legend
  • – Horizontal axis
  • – Vertical axis
  • – Gridlines

Customizing chart style :-

On the customize tab, the first section on the top is chart style.

You can change the background color and font of the chart, as well as data label font color and sizes. You can also make your chart 3d from ‘customize’.  

Customize -> chart style -> tick before 3d. And your graph will look like this :-

Customizing chart and axis titles :-

The second section on the customize tab is ‘chart and axis titles’.  As you enter this section, you have the option to add customizations using a drop down menu.

From here, you can add desired titles to your chart and the horizontal and vertical axes. Till now you have not added a title to your chart so it is showing the horizontal axis versus the vertical axis. As in the above image – price versus item. You can now change this title to whatever you want (Prices of titles). The next item on the drop down menu is a subtitle for your chart. Let’s add a subtitle. Say “wholesale prices of grocery items”.

adding title and subtitle to your chart

If you want to amend the titles for horizontal and vertical axes, you can use the same drop down menu and change these titles. You can also change the font sizes and colors of the titles from the options at the bottom. Check screenshot below to find how these changes will look in your chart. If you want to change the order of items on the horizontal axis, you can do so from the horizontal axis in the customize Tab.

Now, the chart has bolder titles and subtitles. 

Formatting series:

If you want your chart to look more colorful, you can format ‘Series’ to make it look even attractive. Customize –> Series.

To assign a distinct color to each bar (data point), go to format data point and click on Add. It will offer you options to change the color of each bar and make your chart more colorful. We have five data points – Price A, Price B…Price E. 

To make your data labels look more attractive and easy to read, you can change the font size, make it bolder or even shift the position of data labels on each bar. Tick the box before data labels in the same section and more options will open for you to change.

You can select to position the data label on each bar at the centre, inside towards the upper or lower and outside right above the bars. Your chart will start looking better and neater with these customizations.

You can close the chart editor if it occupies a lot of space on the screen. However, whenever you want to make changes, just right click on the graph and select any option which will again open the concerned area in the chart editor. If you want to have the horizontal axis on the right side instead of left, you can make these changes from the editor. In the same section (series), you have the option to select left or right axis. 

You can also change the order of items by going to horizontal axis. Go to the horizontal axis tab and tick the box reverse axis order. This will change the order of items (E to A) from (A to E).

Hiding the Gridlines:

Gridlines do not always look attractive on the chart. You have major and minor gridlines and you can select to make them vanish or change their color. If you do not want to show gridlines on the chart then just go to the gridlines section at the bottom of the editor. Change the color of the major and minor gridlines to  white or the same color as the background and the gridlines will stop showing. Most of the features, like color, font and title positions in the chart are set to default in the editor. You can change them all as per your need. At last you will have a clean and beautiful looking chart like in the image below.

The gridlines are gone and the chart is looking neater and more attractive.

Insert a chart into Google docs :-

If you are already working on a  document in Google docs and want to insert  a chart into it, just go to Insert tab and click on Chart -> from sheets. It will open all your spreadsheets and you can select the one you want to insert your chart from. Even if you have several charts in the same spreadsheet, it will show all of them. Select the right chart and click on Import and you are done. 

Abhijeet Pratap

I have studied Marketing and English Literature and like to write on topics in Business management, Marketing, literature, latest technologies and other areas. I also like to spend my time learning coding.