A line chart, also known as a line graph, plots data points on a graph, and as its name suggests, it uses a line to connect the various data points. The slope of the line shows how data changes over time. Generally speaking, time information will be plotted along the x-axis (horizontal axis), and the metric you’re trying to measure will be plotted along the y-axis (vertical axis).
If you’ve caught yourself wondering “what is a line chart used for?” it’s generally used as a data visualization to track changes over time. It’s often one of the first chart types people learn in school, and because of the line chart’s common familiarity, it’s often used when conducting studies, making business reports to shareholders, and tracking trends. The line will begin at the statistic’s starting point and move up or down depending on whether the statistic increased or decreased. Here is a simple guide on creating your own line charts and some practical use cases.
How To Create A Line Chart In Microsoft Excel
You have plenty of great options for creating charts in Excel, including bar charts, scatter charts, candlestick charts, and more, but the line chart is the most commonly used and one of the easiest to understand. For business purposes, you might use a line graph to display an increase in customer complaints in recent months to present to business leaders and determine how to improve the customer experience. Here’s a simple step-by-step guide on making your own line chart in Excel.
- Open Excel and create a new spreadsheet.
- Enter the data you plan to chart in the spreadsheet.
- Select all the data you want to include in a simple line chart.
- Go to the toolbar at the top of the screen, click the “Insert” tab, and select “Line” under Chart Types.
- Excel will automatically produce a new line chart based on the data you selected.
- You can customize any chart in Excel by changing the chart type, adding titles and legends to data sets, and formatting your data points and lines.
- When you’re finished, click the “File” tab and select “Save As” to save your new line chart as an Excel file, PDF, or as an image to display in your next meeting.
Now that you know how to create your own line charts, here are some of the most common use cases.
Tracking Progress Over Time
A fantastic use case for line charts is tracking your progress with various company projects. A line graph clearly displays your progress metrics against your project timetable, so everyone can understand at a glance if you’re meeting your objectives in a timely manner. If you’re looking to install new workstations at your organization, for example, it’s easy to track the number of new workstations installed so far compared to your time projections for the project.
Tracking Different Data Sets
Naturally, your organization is keeping track of multiple data sets at any given time, and you can use a line chart to compare them by using different data points and lines to connect each set. You might use line charts as part of a competitive analysis to track your sales in the past year compared to competitor sales based on market reports and your own business intelligence, for example.
Tracking Relationships Between Sets of Data
Another great use case for line charts is tracking relationships between your different data sets. A good example would be tracking the number of sales you’ve made in the past month and comparing it to the number of customer complaints you’ve received on a line graph. This way, you can determine if there’s a direct relationship between customer complaints and your actual sales numbers. Using line charts like this is an easy way to discover causal relationships and start determining how to address them.
Ultimately, line charts are fantastic tools for tracking business trends and changes over time. Just remember to keep the number of lines on a single chart limited (most recommend no more than four lines) to avoid clutter and confusion.
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