Before you can manipulate a chart any way, you need to highlight or select the chart. To select an embedded chart simply click once on its border. When a chart is highlighted, Excel does two things:

  • it displays the data on which the chart is based and
  • it displays the Chart Tools.

Chart Tools consist of the Design, Layout and Format context sensitive tabs.

To select a stand-alone chart, simply click on the sheet tab. In a standalone chart, the chart occupies the entire sheet and normally the chart remains highlighted. However, it can be deselected if you click on the blank space outside the chart area. If the chart has become deselected, simply click on its border to reselect it; just as you would with an embedded chart.

The most basic kind of manipulation one can do to an embedded chart is to reposition and resize the chart. To resize the chart, you must use one of the resize handles. These are positioned on the corners of the chart and in the middle of each side. Each resize handle consists of three dots. When using the middle handles, you can only change one dimension; either the width or the height. When you use the corner handles, you can change both dimensions. To resize proportionally, in other words to retain the aspect ratio, hold down the Shift key as you drag.

You may also find it useful to permanently lock the aspect ratio. Click on the Format tab and then click on the launch button. In the size section this displays the Size and Properties dialog box. Here you’ll find the option Lock Aspect Ratio. If this option is activated, whenever you use the corner handles to resize a chart, the aspect ratio is automatically preserved without having to use the Shift key.

To move an embedded chart around a worksheet, position the cursor on the border of the chart but away from the resize handles. You will notice that when the cursor is over a resize handle it changes to an icon with two arrows. When you have the cursor over the border but away from the resize handles, the cursor changes to an icon with four arrows. At this point, simply click and hold and drag the chart to a new location.

Although Excel places a chart on an independent layer above the worksheet layer, it still links it to the columns and rows over which it is place. This means that if you make adjustments to these rows and columns, the chart can move or be resized. For example, if we insert a column to the left of one of the columns over which the chart is placed, the chart becomes wider to accommodate the newly inserted column.

If link between the chart and the underlying cells becomes a nuisance at any time, Excel allows you to deactivate it. Simply highlight the chart, click on the Format tab and then click on the launch button in the Size section. This time, you need to click on the Properties tab and here you’ll find options for Object Positioning. If you choose the option Don’t Move or Size With Cells, this means that chart objects will become completely independent of the columns and rows on which they superimposed.