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Charley's Swipe File #59

This Excel chart of grouped columns, with its custom column-header legends, makes it easy to see the trends of performance by entity, and to compare those trends.


by Charley Kyd, MBA
Microsoft Excel MVP, 2005-2014
The Father of Spreadsheet Dashboard Reports

Charley's Swipe File Chart #59When we create a column chart of several entities (like countries) over a period of time, Excel interweaves the entities by date. We get so accustomed to this method that no other way tends to occur to us.

But The Wall Street Journal once ran a chart like this, with all plots for each entity grouped together. (I should mention, however, that they used a more traditional legend. But I prefer my “column-header” legend shown here to their approach.)

Notice that the WSJ’s charting method makes it much easier to compare performance by entity. Here, for example, we easily can see patterns of growth or decline in each country, and then visually compare each country’s performance to the others.

You could do the same if you used an approach like this to show performance by product, or department, or division, or whatever…and for any time period...daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and so on.

I can think of two ways to create a chart like this. One way is with a Scatter (XY) chart. The other is with a Column Chart. But because the Column Chart seemed easier to set up, that’s what I used here.

You’ll run into three key issues when you sit down to create a chart like this: How do you group the columns for each entity? How do you visually separate each group? And how do you display the one set of date labels shown? Let take these in turn…

(Continued in the documentation.)

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