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   HomeArticles / Teaching With Technology / Charts And Graphs With PowerPoint

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Charts and Graphs with PowerPoint
by Jim Lengel, Dean of Faculty, Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology, Boston (http://www.bu.edu/jlengel and http://www.lengel.net)

Charts and graphs find many applications in school, from math to social studies, from the primary grades to graduate school. They can provide a visual representation of data that can explain a complex concept or illustrate a multi-level relationship in ways that mere words and numbers cannot. Previous articles in this series have shown you how to construct graphs from numbers in an Excel spreadsheet (see How to Make Graphs with Excel ). This week's article shows you how to construct charts and graphs using PowerPoint, so they become an integral part of a slide show.

Building such visual devices should be part of every student and teacher's repertoire. The instructions that follow are designed for both students and teachers to use.

Chart or graph?

We will use the word chart to refer to things like organizational charts and simple diagrams. We'll refer to pie graphs and bar graphs and such as graphs. Charts are often used in schools to show steps in a process, names in a hierarchy, or events in a sequence. Graphs are used to report results, make comparisons, show trends over time, or display distributions. Both can be constructed easily with PowerPoint.

Making a chart

We'll start with a simple organizational chart, the kind with boxes connected by lines that show relationships between people or offices in an organization. Start by choosing Insert --> Object --> Microsoft Organizational Chart Object. (Do not choose Insert --> Chart; we'll use that one later.)

You will see an Organizational Chart window appear over the PowerPoint Window. It is in this window that you will build your chart. When it is finished, you will close the window and see the chart appear on your PowerPoint slide. The chart is begun for you, with a few boxes and lines already set up. Start building your own chart by entering text from the keyboard into the boxes.

To add a box to a chart like this, click one of the buttons at the top of the window: Subordinate, Co-worker, Manager, or Assistant. This will cause the cursor to change to a little box. Click the cursor on one of the existing boxes, and you will see a new box added. Into this new box enter the text for the new item. (This organizational chart tool need not be restricted to that purpose; you may enter any kind of text into the boxes, to construct a wide variety of diagrams.)

The results will look something like this in the chart-construction window:

To make a box unconnected to the rest, click the rectangle button on the top right, then click and drag anywhere in the window to draw a box. To enter text into this box, click the Enter Text button on the top left, then click in the box and enter your text. To connect this box to the others, choose one of the line buttons on the upper right, then click and drag to draw a line from one box to another.

You cannot move boxes around the screen at will with the organizational chart-maker. But you can move them from one part of the chart to another by clicking and dragging. When you are done, choose File --> Update and return, and the chart will appear back on the PowerPoint slide. On the slide you may resize or move the chart as you wish by clicking and dragging.

Making a graph

Like the chart, PowerPoint will provide you a window in which you can create a graph. Start by choosing Insert --> Chart from the menubar. Up will pop a sample column graph with some values already filled in its datasheet. You change the values (numbers) and labels (words) in the datasheet and then watch the graph change to fit your needs. You may also add or delete new columns and rows to the datasheet to modify the graph.

Don't want a column chart? Choose Chart --> Chart Type from the menubar to see a large selection of graph types, from pies to lines to bubbles. Click on the type you want, and watch it change. Choose Chart --> Chart Options from the menubar to modify the legend, titles, and data labels on the graph. A sample graph from a geography presentation might look like this as it is being constructed:

When the graph looks exactly as you need it, choose Quit and return to presentation, and you will see the graph displayed on the PowerPoint slide, where you can click and drag to move or stretch or shrink it.

Modifying the charts and graphs

To make changes to the charts or graphs you have inserted onto the PowerPoint slides, simply double-click the chart or graph. This will re-open the editing windows, where you can make changes as necessary. When you quit and return to the slide show, the modifications will be reflected on the PowerPoint slide.

For a related lesson on doing similar things with Word, you might also want to consult Beyond Words: Using Tables and Diagrams in Microsoft Word, in a previous article, for a similar discussion of how to build visual devices using common software tools.

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