Creating charts in Microsoft Excel 97

Creating charts in Excel was once easy. It still is, unless you happen to have data that does not fit into Microsoft’s preconceived ideas.

One type of data which the ‘evil empire’ did not consider common enough to warrant automatic inclusion was historical data, with years forming the x-axis and data (like burials) forming the y-axis.

In order to create a chart in Excel 97, from your London Bills data, you need to do the following. It is not as difficult as it sounds!


  1. Select your data in both columns. Only select the data ie. the burials. Do not select the x-axis data, the years. You add the years at a later stage
  2. Insert Chart
  3. Choose a Line type chart in ‘Step 1 of 4
  4. Click on the ‘next’ tab
  5. Step 2 of 4 shows the problem. Excel has graphed both sets of data, and does not give you an immediately obvious way of defining the years, in column A, as your x-axis (ie. the horizontal one on your graph). So you have to tell it. In Step 2 of 4, click on the Series Tab. This gives you the Chart Source Data Window. Click here for Picture
  6. Now click on the little box with the red arrow in the Category x-axis labels box.

    You will be returned to the worksheet, with a narrow horizontal Chart Wizard box at the top of the screen.

    Excel now wants you to define your x-axis.

  7. You now either type in A2:A9 (or the cell range containing all your years) or select the appropriate years with the mouse. Do not select the column label ‘years’ (A1) because stupid Excel will treat that as an x-axis value.
  8. Press Return. You should now have the box entitled Source data, with the years as the x-axis. This should produce the correct graph!
  9. Now you can click on Next to proceed to steps 3 and 4 which are self-explanatory.
  10. Step 3 allows you to add labels, gridlines and so on..
  11. Step 4 allows you to define the new chart as either a new sheet, my preferred option, or as an object on the original worksheet.
  12. Better hit the save button when you have finished this.


Remember, this is brought to you by Microsoft. It gets automatic with practice. It was much easier using Excel 5.0, believe me.