Pie charts: Basic how-to

Simple pie chartTo make a pie chart in a spreadsheet, all you strictly need to start with is a set of numbers. Pie charts show the percentage of the whole, so at minimum for a reasonable pie chart you need 2 numbers, or two parts. An example of this would be this simple chart, where the two numbers happen to be 1 and 3. Note that these numbers don’t have to add up to 100 – the program will automatically figure out the percentages. If you had 25 and 75 you’d get the same chart, and the same would be true for 0.1 and 0.3. If you put them in a different order, however, the chart will still convey the same information, but it will look different.

Ready to experiment? The first step is to enter the numbers. They should be in a column, and they can be any numbers you want, but to get a chart that looks like this one you’ll want to use 1 and 3, or some equivalent thereof. Then highlight them. After that, the steps depend on which program you’re using.

In Excel 97:

  1. Click on the “Insert” menu, then on “Chart…”. You might notice that there’s a little icon that looks like a bar chart next to the word “Chart…”, and that it’s the same as one of the icons in the toolbar under the menu labels. In the future you could also simply click on that icon in the toolbar.
  2. In the Chart Wizard, click on the “Pie” chart type
  3. Click on the first of the options that appear to the right – the 2-d one without anything fancy.

In Excel 2007:

  1. Click on the “Insert” tab
  2. Find the group under this tab that is labeled “charts”. For me, it is the third set.
  3. Click on the icon in this group labeled “pie”. For me it is the third icon.
  4. Click on the first option under “2-D Pie” – the one that looks pretty basic, without any sort of section pulled out.

In Google Spreadsheet:

  1. Click on the “Insert” menu, then on “Charts”. You might notice that there’s a little icon that looks like a bar chart next to the word “Charts”, and that it’s the same as one of the icons in the toolbar under the menu labels. In the future you could also simply click on that icon in the toolbar.
  2. In the Chart Editor, click on “Charts”
  3. Click on “Pie”.
  4. Click on the first of the two options that appear – the 2-d one.
  5. Click the “insert” button. (It’s off the bottom of my laptop screen, so if you’re working on a small screen you’ll have to grab the Chart Editor window and drag it up until you see it.)

In OpenOffice Calc:

  1. Highlight the two numbers
  2. Click on the “Insert” menu, then on “Chart…” You might notice that there’s a little icon that looks like a line chart next to the word “Chart…”, and that it’s the same as one of the icons in the toolbar under the menu labels. In the future you could also simply click on that icon in the toolbar.
  3. Click the “Pie” chart type
  4. Click the “Normal” sub-type (it’s the first on the left).
  5. Click “Finish”

When you look at your result, the colors will probably be different. Every program has different default colors. In most programs you can change almost everything about your chart: size, colors, category labels, title, backgrounds, etc. I might go into more depth on this later, but in the meantime I encourage you to go ahead and experiment on your own!

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