Excel – Using the “X Y Chart Labeler”
If you have ever looked around for tutorials on charts or read through books on charting techniques, one thing that pops up regularly is the X Y Chart Labeler by Rob Bovey.
This is a great little add-in, and best of all it’s free. You can download it from http://www.appspro.com/Utilities/Utilities.htm
So what does it do, and why is it so great?
When you create a chart in versions up to 2010, you can add labels to your series with one of the following;
- Series name
- Category name
In most cases this is ample, but what if you wanted to put something different? You could re-label everything in your data table but then it probably won’t make sense to anyone else. If you use scatter diagrams or bubble charts you can’t even do that as you need both x and y coordinates to place your markers and these act as labels. Identifying the individual scatter points or bubbles becomes quite difficult. You could add text boxes manually to everything but if the data point moves the text box doesn’t, so you have to move everything again by hand. All quite painful really.
So this is where the X Y Chart Labeler comes in.
Let’s take a simple example using a table showing sales by customer. What might be of interest is to show the name of the account manager against the customer sales. I could show sales for each customer or sales for each account manager but not both at the same time. Not easily, anyway.
You create your chart as normal, but then you create a set of custom labels, or as in this case the names of the account managers. You will need one label per data point/series in order for it to work, but there is functionality within the tool to show/hide individual labels.
Assuming you have installed and turned on the add-in, click on the X Y CHART LABELS tab and click on ADD LABELS.
Pick the series you want to label from the drop down list, then select the cells that contain your new custom labels. Select where you want them to appear (top/bottom/centre) and click on OK.
Your new labels will now appear on the chart. Job done!
If the position is not quite right, click on MOVE LABELS.
Set the number of points you want your labels to move with each click of the arrows, and using the arrows, relocate your labels. You can apply the move to all labels in one go, or select individual labels to apply the movement to.
Other functionality within this add-in;
Manual labeller: allows you to manually label individual data points using either already existing values in cells or by typing a value directly into the form.
Delete labels: as the name suggests, you can delete labels for a whole series or all labels in the chart.
Help: it comes with a searchable help file, although to be fair, you can’t really go wrong using this add-in.
If you have Excel 2013 (and I’m guessing that this will continue to apply to later versions too) you do have the option to attach custom labels, using cells from your worksheet.
Click on the chart to activate it and click on the plus symbol that you see top right hand corner of the chart area. Select CHART LABELS then click on MORE OPTIONS. Near the top of the window that appears on the right hand side, you will see the option VALUE FROM CELLS. Tick the option and then select the cells containing your custom labels.
Knowing that this functionality exists in 2013+, is there a need for the add-in? Probably yes! You still need the add-in to move, show/hide labels etc. more easily than doing it all manually, so from point of view it’s worth having. Perhaps later versions will include this sort of extra functionality, but until then use the add-in.
Now…some of you will be looking at this and thinking “wow, this is brilliant….but they’ll never let me download it at work”. We all have over zealous IT security police and if they don’t know what it is or can’t support it (even though it needs no support) they block it. The add-in runs off VBA code and Rob Bovey, the developer, has not locked the code down, so you, or any despotic IT jobs worth can look at the code quite easily and read all the helpful notes and comments that are in the modules and forms.
The add-in is perfectly safe. Rob Bovey is a recognised MVP or Microsoft Most Valued Professional, so he’s not some random programmer who is dumping dodgy code on the internet. The add-in is also mentioned by the likes of Mr Excel, Jon Peltier and other leading lights in the Excel world as the go to tool for this job. So the only reason the IT bod will refuse to load it is because he/she knows nothing about VBA, not because the code is seen as a justifiable threat!
So if you need to add custom labels to a chart, get this add-in. Once you have it you’ll be able to apply it to all sorts of custom charts. It’s quick and easy to use.