6 Types of Charts in Google Sheets and How to Use Them Efficiently
Google Sheets offers a wide range of chart types for you to illustrate your data with. But not any sort of data can be practically demonstrated with any chart. Of course, in theory, you can use most charts to visualize any series, but that will undermine the whole point of a chart: Making the comprehension and analysis of the data easier.
Each chart is best suited to demonstrate a certain type of data. In this article, we take a look at the main chart types in Google Sheets, and the scenarios where they are the best choice for demonstrating data.
How to Create a Chart in Google Sheets
The process of making a chart is the same, regardless of the type of chart you want to make. To create a chart, first you need a data series to represent. In this sample spreadsheet, we have the views an article has received in different months, and we want to represent this with a line chart.
- Select your data table. That will be cells A1 to B9 in this example.
- Go to the Insert menu, and then select Chart. Google Sheets will automatically decide the chart type. This will likely be a line chart.
- In Chart editor, in the Setup tab, change the Chart type to Line chart. You now have a line chart!
If you take a look at the chart type menu, there’s a good variety of chart types that you can choose from. Google Sheets will take a guess at the best chart type depending on your data, but you can always change it to the one you want.
All these chart types wouldn’t exist if they could be used interchangeably. Each chart is best used in different scenarios. Let’s take a look at the 6 main types and see where each is the best choice for visualizing your data.
1. Line Chart
Line charts are one of the most common types of charts. This chart consists of points that represent each value, and lines that connect these points together. The line chart is often used to show the changes of a series during a specific time period, and thus it is often set in chronological order.
The line chart is perfect for showing trends, forecasting, and analyzing how a given item has performed throughout a time period. You can even draw trendlines over them to better analyze them.
A good example would be the annual revenue of a company in the past 5 years, as seen in the image above. This chart shows the years on the X-axis and the revenue on the Y-axis. The points on the chart show the revenue when read from the Y-axis, and the year when read from the X-axis.
The line connecting the points shows the slope, which can be a measure of how well the company has performed in the next year and more.
2. Area Chart
The area chart is much like the line chart, as it includes all the elements in a line chart. What makes the area chart different, is that it also highlights the area under the lines. This comes in handy when you need to compare the areas of two given lines, as the area is in fact the X-axis multiplied by the Y-axis.
Like line charts, area charts are often used to display the changes in series over a period of time. Area charts are usually used on multiple lines, to compare and analyze.
An example, where the area chart proves its efficacy, is illustrated in the image above. In this spreadsheet, the speeds of two different cars are measured in a time period. Since the X-axis is in seconds (s), and the Y-axis is in meters per second (m/s), the area under the chart is X*Y which in this case is s*m/s, which equals m or meters.
This means that the area under the chart shows the distance traveled by each vehicle. Looking at the chart, you can see that Car B has still traveled a further distance, despite the final speed loss. Calculating the area under the lines is another topic, which we will tend to in a separate article.
Another piece of information that this chart gives us, is the slope. The slope of the lines is the Y-axis divided by the X-axis, and in this case, that will be m/s^2 which is the acceleration of each vehicle. This information can also be deducted from a simple line chart.
3. Column Chart
A column chart displays the series as rectangular columns perpendicular to the X-axis. The longer the rectangle is, the bigger the value. The column chart is best used to compare categories. What’s more is that, unlike the line chart, you can add multiple variables to a category.
As an example, in the image above, we have the stats of a gamer in different shooter games. These stats are the average kills, the average deaths, and the average aim accuracy per match. Each game is defined as a category and contains the data for these three variables.
Looking at this chart, you can analyze and compare how the gamer has performed differently in each shooter game. You can also demonstrate negative values with the column chart, which comes in handy when you want to, for instance, show the monthly profits of a company.
4. Bar Chart
The bar chart is similar to the column chart in nature. Albeit, it shows the rectangles perpendicular to the Y-axis, rather than the X-axis. This similarity makes the two charts similar in usage as well. Where you can use a bar chart, you can usually use a column chart as well, but not always.
On a bar chart, the categories go on the Y-axis. This makes ample space for category labels. For instance, if you had categories with lengthy names, they would be more readable on a bar chart than a column chart. Conversely, the column chart is better suited for demonstrating negative values, though you can do that with the bar chart as well.
In the image above, we have a spreadsheet containing the names of some med students and their marks in different courses. Since the names are lengthy, a bar chart is best suited for this purpose.
5. Pie Chart
Much like a pie, a pie chart is a circular graphic that demonstrates the proportion of each category, where each slice represents the category. A pie chart is used when the sum of values equals the full proportion. The angle of the slice’s arc, as well as the area, is proportional to the quantity of the value, thus the sum of all quantities should make a full portion.
Consider the pie chart in the image above as an example. In the spreadsheet, we have the percentages of the shares each shareholder owns in a company. The sum of these shares, naturally, equals 100% and so the pie chart is the best fit for demonstrating this information.
6. Scatter Chart
The scatter chart shows the values as dots. This is similar to the line chart, but these two charts are very different. The scatter chart doesn’t connect the dots with a line, and more importantly, one X can have to Ys on this chart.
This chart is usually used when you want to discover or represent a correlation between two variables: the X and the Y. The density of the dots, and the slope, can give good information on the existence of a relation between the two variables.
As an example, in the image above, we have the data from a fictional experiment, where people of different ages have been monitored to see how many times they’ve lost their keys in the duration of the experiment.
The goal is to analyze the relationship between age and the number of incidences. As you can see, the scatter plot has a good density with a positive slope, which can indicate that the number of incidences increases in higher age.
Choose the Best Chart in Google Sheets
The wide range of chart types available in Google Sheets can get confusing at times. What chart should you use for your data? Well, now you know! Each chart type is best used in particular scenarios, and you can better represent or analyze your data when you use the proper chart type to visualize it.
Google Sheets is a powerful tool that lets you analyze data, but Google Sheets isn’t just about charts. There’s more to Google Sheets, and the more you learn, the easier your life gets.
Want to get the most out of Google Sheets? Here’s how to use Google Sheets like a pro to get things done quickly and easily.
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