Need to combine two chart types? Create a combo chart and add a second axis

This post is brought to you by Robin Wakefield, a Program Manager in the Excel Team.

Have you ever had two different types of data that you wanted to show in one chart?  For example you may want to plot actual revenue with forecasted revenue to compare the two values.

In an earlier post, we showed you how to create combination charts in Excel 2010, but we have revamped this experience as a part of Excel 2013 to make it much easier to create combo charts. I am going to walk through the same scenario used in that article so you can see the differences.

Suppose I work at a manufacturing company, and I’d like to analyze the number of units we’ve sold over the last few months and the total revenue generated.   I’m hoping to identify trouble spots, such as high unit sales that result in low revenue, which may in turn indicate that the units are being sold too cheaply.  I would like to create a single chart like the one below so I can see both data sets in one view.

01 Combo Chart - Units Sold and Total Transactions

Combining different chart types and adding a secondary axis

To follow along, use this sample workbook.

1. Select the data you would like to use for your chart.

2. Go to the Insert tab and click Recommended Charts.

3. Click the All Charts tab and select the Combo category.

At the top of the dialog you will see a couple pre-canned combo charts to get you started and Clustered Column – Line is the default.  This combo chart will split the series 50/50 between a clustered column and a line chart. You can then use the table below the chart to change each series to a particular chart type and move series to the secondary axis.

02 Combo Chart - Insert Chart

Given that units sold and total transactions have different scales we need to move one of them to a secondary axis so we can clearly see the values for both.

4. Check the Secondary Axis box for the Total Transactions and click OK.

Your chart should now look like this:

03 Combo Chart - Initial Output

As you can see it now takes four steps to create a simple combination chart instead of the eleven steps outlined in the earlier post!

Finishing touches

Now we can walk through the finishing touches to make your combo chart look more professional.

There are a couple steps in the previous post that are no longer necessary since they are the new defaults for 2013:

  • Legend is already on the bottom.
  • Chart title is already added to the chart and all you need to do is edit the text.

So the two steps left are to add axis titles and format the Total Transactions axis as $.

Add axis titles

1. Click the Add Chart Elements button next to the chart.

04 Combo Chart - Add Chart Elements Button

2. Check Axis Titles.

3. Edit the axis title text

Format total transactions axis as $

1. Right click on the secondary axis (Total Transactions) and choose Format Axis.

05 Combo Chart - Format Axis Drop Down

2. Expand the Number category.

06 Combo Chart - Expand the Number Category

3. Set the Category to Currency and the Decimal Places to zero.

07 Combo Chart - Set Number to Currency and Decimal Point

And now your chart is completed.

08 Combo Chart - Final Output

Let us know what you think

I think you will find that creating combo charts and modifying them to get to your final polished output is much easier now. Let us know what you think in the comments below!

–Robin Wakefield,  Excel Program Manager