How to Create a Simple Column Chart by Date in Excel?

The primary purpose of a column chart is to illustrate comparisons between various items (categories) or across different periods. This visual representation facilitates a quick comparison of the metrics across time.

Consider a sample dataset of the headcount of an organization by month for the year 2024 as shown:

When this data is visualized using a simple column chart, it becomes easier to identify any pattern or trend across months when used in analysis.

Step 01: Create Chart

Select the data (both the time series and the value) and go to Insert, then insert a Clustered Column Chart.

This inserts a simple column chart as shown:

Please note that the colors may vary based on the theme of colors in your Excel sheet.

Step 02: Format the Horizontal Axis

While the previous step creates a column chart, let us look at some of the formatting that is available in Excel for a visually appealing and effective chart.

Let’s first look at the various options available for formatting the X-axis in Excel.

Say, for a chart that shows all 12 months of a year, I prefer the axis labels not to occupy much space while being rightly identifiable. This can be done easily in Excel:

i. Right-click on the X-axis, and go to Format Axis.

ii. Under the axis options, go to “Number”. Here, choose the category “Date”

and the Type as follows:

This modifies the X-axis as shown below, we can notice that the labels do not occupy much space on the chart as a whole.

Step 03: Format the Column Chart

Now, let’s shift our focus to format the chart as a whole.  

i. From the format pane drop-down to the right, choose the “EMPLOYEES series.

ii. Under Fill & Line, choose a fill color for the columns to match the report where this chart might go.

iii. Again, from the drop-down choose the “Vertical (Value) Axis Major Gridlines” and modify the line color to make it less apparent.

iv. Add a suitable chart title and format it using the Home Ribbon as shown:

v. Click on the chart, and use “+” to add data labels and format it using the Home Ribbon.

vi. Again, click on the “+” to add the Axis titles, add suitable titles (as and if needed). Format them if needed using the options in the Home Ribbon.

vii. From the drop-down in the format pane now choose the chart area


viii. Format the chart border as shown:

With this, your simple column chart for time series data is ready to be added to your reports or presentations and for further analysis.

Check our 1-page, downloadable illustrative guide explaining all the steps for a quick reference.

If you have any feedback or suggestions, please post them in the comments below.

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