Guide: LibreOffice Calc Part 5: Charts

In this fifth part of our guide, we start looking at how Calc handles charts. This is great for adding some visual punch.

In the previous guide, we talked about formulas and how they can do a lot to add magic to your spreadsheet. Of course, automatically generating calculations isn’t the only thing Calc is capable of doing. It can also generate charts as well. So, we’re going to look at how to generate those charts.

Step 1: Setting Up Your Spreadsheets

Calc is going to need to read information to generate charts in question. One way this can be handled is to simply type out the information straight away, then get Calc to make those calculations and draw out the chart. What if you want to place your data off onto another sheet in the first place and offer a cleaner looking chart? We’ll show you how you can gather data off of another sheet and place it into this. Naturally, it is even easier to just keep the data onto the same sheet, but we thought it would be better to show you the slightly more complex way because regardless of how you insert the data, the technique is the same.

First, we are going to add a sheet for our data. Just click on the plus sign next to “Sheet1”.

Note: If you want to name the sheets something else, changing the names after you add the sheet is the ideal time to do so.

Step 2: Inserting Your Data

Now, we are going to insert our spreadsheet data in. If you haven’t had an idea of what kind of spreadsheet you like, this is the last convenient stage to think of this. In my case, I want to create a simple pie chart. Because of this, all I really need is one column of data. A second column for labels is fine (in fact, it’s actually recommended). We’ll tell Calc about this in a later step.

So, we’ve inserted our data on this sheet. This looks fine for a pie chart, so we’re now going to go back to our first sheet for the next step.

Step 3: Generating the Chart

After we select the first sheet, we’re going to click on “Insert” in the menu bar. After that, we’re going to click on “Chart…”

A pop-up window will appear. So, I’ve selected the pie chart. I can add a 3D effect if I want some extra visual effects, but for now, I’m just going to stick with a simple pie chart. I could technically click on “Finish”, but chances are, the pie chart won’t look right. So, I’m going to click on the “Next” button.

In the next screen, I have some additional options here. The important part here is the “Data Range” text box. This is going to tell Calc where this information is coming from. I could theoretically type this information is, but like most beginner Calc users, I don’t know the proper characters and information to insert into it. So, instead, I’m going to make Calc do all the work by clicking on the “Select Data Range” button (highlighted).

The window will shrink down and I’ll be able to select the range I want to use for my chart. First, I’m going to click on the sheet that I want (Sheet2). Then, I’m going to click and drag over the cells I want Calc to get its data. If the pink square circles all the information I want it to calculate (as shown), then I can release my mouse button.

So, the string of characters has changed to accurately show where the data is coming from. The good news is that Calc is reading information and translating it into the pie chart. For the observant ones reading this, you’ll notice that the pie chart behind the window isn’t displaying this data correctly. How you configured your chart will depend on the correct options next (circled in screen shot). You may need a little trial and error if you are doing something differently, but here’s what wound up working for me:

I can definitely see that the pie chart is now being drawn correctly in the background. I selected the “Data series in columns” radial. I also unticked “First row as label”, then ticked “First column as label”. Since I am happy with the results, I’m going to click on the “Finish” button.

Step 4: Making Your Chart Pretty

While the colour scheme is OK, we probably want to edit it. If you have your chart de-selected, it’ll look something like this:

First, we want to select the chart. To do so, we need to double-click on it. It’ll look like this:

Note that the border has changed. This means we’ve selected the object. Next, we probably want to adjust the colours of the chart itself. First, we want to single click on the pie itself.

You’ll see the pie selected with the little boxes in every slice. Next, we want to click on the slice we want. In this case, it’s the left slice. So, we click on that slice.

You’ll now see the boxes surrounding the slice. This means you have a particular slice selected.

Note: Don’t confuse two single clicks with a double click. Wait for those boxes to show up first.

Next, we want to click on the “Format Selection” button (as highlighted in the screen shot).

With the “Area” tab selected and the “Color” button selected, I can now pick a new colour. Since I didn’t see pink in my swatches, I used the “Pick” button (highlighted in screen shot) to get the pink colour. With my colour choice selected, I happily click on “OK”.

Now, I see my colour selected nicely.

Note: Sometimes, the colour choice doesn’t take the first try. If that happens to you, try double clicking on another slice, then double clicking on the first slice again. Toggling selected slices seems to “wake up” the selector.

Now I can just double click on the next pie slice and choose a colour. Generally, subsequent colour adjustments are much more co-operative after the first one.

Of course, adjusting colours isn’t limited to pie slices. I can double click on the background, then start adjusting this. In the above, I’m going ahead and throwing in a gradient.

While that looks decent, it actually makes the text of the legend hard to read. Gradient can be hard to work with when text is involved. So, we’re going to adjust the background of the legend box and turn it back to white.

It’s OK. We customized the look of our chart and the information presented is legible. That’s not bad either.

A Bar Chart

A bar chart follows a very similar process as the pie chart. The only real difference is the fact that you are adding more pieces of data. Simply go to the two sheet spreadsheet and insert your information on the second sheet (if you want to stick with the two sheet system of course).

The above is a satisfactory data table for a bar chart. Now, go to your first sheet like before and insert a bar chart. Remember to highlight your data source when inserting the information.

You can always adjust the settings like always to get the chart you want, but for me, the default setting wound up working perfectly. I can take this chart and start customizing the look as I see fit by hitting the “Finish” button now.

Congratulations, you can now create charts in Calc!

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