Monday, November 12, 2012

Using Excel to Make X-Y Grids for Graphing

I've seen a lot of bad looking xy grids in my days, looking at other teachers worksheets and tests, and I wanted to show what I use and make it available. I create a scatter plot in Excel, hide the points that created it, and change the window by adjusting the x and y axis. Over the years, I have refined the look, and created a huge bank of different sized graphs, similar to the one below:
Sample Graph, created in Excel
Downloadable Excel File 
Anytime I need a graph for a worksheet, quiz, or test, I open up this file.  (I do that easily by having it pinned on the start menu). I see twenty or so graphs immediately available, and if any one of those works, I'll just copy and paste it into the quiz. If I don't see one that I like, I'll make a copy of one of them and paste it into excel (this way my library of graphs always grows) and I'll change the x-axis and y-axis to fit what I might need.  To do this, right click on the x-axis, or y-axis, and go to "Format Axis" near the bottom.  The following window will come up, where you'll want to make some changes:
The adjustments in red are my most common changes -- this window is what comes up when I clicked on the y-axis in my sample graph above.  By adjusting the maximum or minimum values (in the red circle) the graph can display more or less along the y-axis. In my graphs, the major unit is how often the numbers on the side will appear, and the minor unit is how often the dashed lines appear.

Adjusting the axis labels to appear on the low side (see orange circle) is a nice touch, which is why the numbers don't occur on the y-axis directly, but off to the side.  This keeps them out of the way, and a little neater in my opinion.

The line style page (see yellow circle) is how you can adjust how the axis itself appears. I decided to make it stand out against all the other lines by making it a little thicker. If you right click on the dotted lines (called major gridlines) you can also adjust their look.  I find that making them dashed and thinner makes them useful, but not overwhelming when printed.

I typically copy and paste these graphs directly into Word, but sometimes I want them to be pasted as pictures, instead of as editable graphs, embedded in the word file. To do this, instead of pasting in the usual way, Paste Special (I do this by pressing Alt E, S because I memorized that keyboard shortcut from older versions of Word) and then choose to paste it as a picture.

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