Changing Excel chart defaults

Here’s a neat trick that will save you time and frustration when creating charts – save your charts as templates and re-use the settings again in the future.

On the left is an example of a chart using Excel’s defaults. But this chart has too many problems: the bars are too far apart, they are all the same color (where do you want me to focus?), the x-axis has an unecessary maximum of 1,200 with frequent division by 200, there’s unnecessary title, legend and vertical lines.

I want to adjust all this, so I manually correct this to the chart on the right. Note the gray bars are intentionally neutral. I will later highlight the important bars by adding color.

defaults1Excel default  defaults2Manually updated 

You could update the chart each time by manually changing the fill color, deleting the extra elements and so on. But in PowerPoint 2007 there’s a better way: save the second chart as a template so you can re-use it again and again. Here’s how.

To save it as a template

  1. Click on the chart you want to save as a template
  2. Go to the Design tab, and click on Save as Template
  3. Make sure the Charts folder is selected, name your chart template and click on Save

To apply that template to a new chart

  1. Select the data and go to the Insert tab
  2. Click on ANY of the chart types and click on All Chart Types at the bottom of the drop-down list
  3. Click on the My Templates folder in the top of the left navigation box
  4. Select the template you want to apply. If you don’t see the chart names, hover over the icons and the names will appear

Now I have a neutral canvas on which to paint my picture. Maybe my message is look at sales in Toronto! I add some color and bold text and my message is clear – and in half the time.


About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the new language of business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.

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