Pie charts are a common type of data visualization. Pie charts can make it easier for others to understand the data you present. Each part of the pie is one part and the parts all make up the whole pie. In other words, pie charts are most useful when you have data sets that add up to 100%.
Almost all spreadsheet software offers a way to create pie charts. Today we will focus on creating pie charts in Microsoft Excel.
How to make a pie chart in Excel
Microsoft Excel is the gold standard of office spreadsheet software. We use the desktop application, but you can choose to use the web version. After all, the Microsoft Office suite for the web is available for free! Let’s see how to create a pie chart from your data in Excel.
- Start with your data. In this example we see the total amount each player has won during a poker night.
- Select the Insert and then select the pie chart command in the Graphs group on the ribbon.
- Select the 2-D cake choice.
- You will see a number of available pie chart options. Let’s choose the default 2D pie chart for now. Once you select the 2D pie icon, Excel will generate a pie chart in your worksheet.
You just made a pie chart! Next, we’ll look at how to customize the look of your pie chart.
Format your pie chart
Excel offers several ways to format pie charts.
You can use the Chart title If you want. Excel automatically uses the header of the column where your chart data is stored, in this case “Poker Winnings”. If you update the text of the header of that column, the title of the pie chart is automatically updated. You can also double click on the chart title itself and edit it.
You also need to put your data in the correct order. Imagine an analog clock sitting on top of your pie chart. Most of the pie should start at noon. As you go clockwise around the cake, the slices should get smaller and smaller. To achieve this, you need to sort your numerical data from largest to smallest.
Select the House menu item. Make sure your cursor is in one of the cells in the numeric data column. Select the Sort and filter button on the ribbon and choose Sort from largest to smallest†
Your pie chart updates automatically and now you follow best practices regarding the order of your data in the pie chart.
Choose your data labels. Start by clicking the pie chart and selecting the green plus icon to the right of the chart to display Chart Elements†
Now tick the box next to Data Labels†
Expand the data label options, then select More options…
That opens the Format Data Labels panel.
How Excel Pie Chart Labels Work
In the Format Data Labels pane, you can choose which labels appear on your pie chart.
Select the bar chart icon called Label options†
Fold the . from Label options section and you will see a number of labels that you can choose to display on your pie chart.
Here’s how each label option works:
- Value from cells† In the example above, the pie chart displays one column of data. If you had another column of data, you could use this option to use those values when labeling each slice of the pie.
In other words, you can choose to use the data from a different range of cells as your data labels. For example, you can add a third column to your data, ‘Change from last week’. if you choose value from cells and select cells C2:C6, then your pie chart would look like this:
- Series Name: Checking this option will add your data column header to every slice of the pie. In our example, each piece of the pie would be labeled “Poker Winnings.”
- Category name: This one is recommended. Instead of having to reference the legend, this option labels each piece of the pie with the category values.
- Where the: This is checked automatically. Each piece of the pie is labeled with the data value corresponding to that slide. In our example, that’s the dollar amount that each poker player has won.
- Percentage: This is often very useful. What percentage of the whole pie does the piece represent? Checking this box will label the segment with the percentage that the segment represents.
- Show leader lines: If the data label does not completely fit the segment, this option adds a line connecting the data label to the segment.
- Legend key: If you don’t have that category name enabled, you must check this box so that the legend appears at the bottom of your pie chart.
Change Pie Chart Colors
To change the color scheme of your pie chart, start by selecting the pie chart. Then select the brush icon, chart styles.
You will see two tabs, Style and colors† Explore the options on both tabs and choose a color scheme you like.
To highlight a specific part of the pie, apply a color to that slice and choose a shade of gray for all other slices.
You can select a single piece of the pie by selecting the pie chart and then clicking the slice you want to format. You can also move the segment you want to highlight slightly off center to draw attention to it as follows:
Change pie chart type
To change the chart type, select the Design tab on the ribbon and select Change chart type†
For example, select the donut chart†
Now our sample pie chart looks like this:
Other types of charts in Excel
Now that you know the basics of creating a pie chart in Excel, check out our article, “Mapping your Excel data” for more tips and tricks on how to present your data visualizations in clear, engaging ways.