Getting Inside a Chart
Charts are made up of the typical grids, legends, and other elements you would expect to find in a chart. The interesting part is how the meat of the chart is actually created: It uses shapes. This might sound familiar considering that SmartArt is made up of shapes, too.
Because the contents of the chart are regular shapes, everything you can do to shapes can be done to the bars, pie pieces, lines, and any other chart piece you can find. (We discuss formatting shapes in Chapter 12, "Formatting Shapes, Text, and More.")
Let's walk through an example in which we format a series with some cool new effects. Start by inserting a default chart using the methods discussed in the earlier section.
- Select a bar, series, or any piece of the chart.
- Modify your selection using any of the Shape Styles commands from the Format tab to change the shape by adding effects, fills, and so on. Then click on Format, Format Selection.
- Select the Fill option on the left of the Format Selection dialog (see Figure 6.4).
Figure 6.4 Click Format Selection to bring up the Format Chart Area dialog, where you can format portions of the chart.
- Click on Gradient Fill and choose some nice colors. At this point, you can also apply a Border Style, Border Color, Shadow, or 3D Format. Try to avoid too much cluttering here. A simple shadow goes a long way (see Figure 6.5).
Figure 6.5 By applying a few fills and styles to pieces of a chart, you can end up with a pretty formatted chart series like this.
- Repeat with the other series in your chart as needed.
Formatting a Specific Piece of a Chart
From the Current Selection group on the Format tab, you can select various parts of the chart, as well as use the Format Selection dialog to access additional options specific to each part of the chart (see Figure 6.6).
Figure 6.6 The Current Selection group and the Format Selection button.
Here's how you can discover these options:
- Select a piece of the chart or use the drop-down list from the Current Selection group.
- Click on Format Selection.
Now you can click around on various pieces of the chart with the Format Selection dialog open, and it adapts to what you have selected. Notice with an Axis selected, Axis Options is the first tab in the dialog from which you can modify the units, scale, tick types, and so on.
With this powerful tool, you can completely customize your chart to your liking. Experiment with the various menus in the Format Selection dialog to see how you can enhance your charts in ways other than what we've discussed here.
Inserting Objects into a Chart
Similar to the legacy charts feature, the new 2007 charts feature allows the insertion of Shapes, Pictures, ClipArt, Textboxes, and WordArt—all of which behave exactly as they would outside the chart.
The great thing about this is that the objects you draw into your chart remain there even if you move, resize, or modify your chart. You can also drag and drop objects into a chart.
This is especially useful when annotating your chart with arrows and text.