Person sitting at a desk working on a graph on a computer.

How to Graph Functions in Excel: A Step-By-Step Guide

Learning how to graph functions in Excel can be daunting, but it is a good skill to learn. Luckily, Excel has many wonderful features that make the process easy to learn and use. This article outlines the process with step-by-step instructions to help you graph functions in Excel in no time. 

We’ll go over what graph functions are, discuss the top reasons you should learn how to graph functions in Excel, and show you the benefits of using this software program. This detailed step-by-step guide will have you using Excel like a pro. 

What Are Graph Functions in Excel?

Graph functions in Excel are preset formulas used to determine an output variable using input variables. This function calculates the necessary variables you want to define and uses them to display the data visually on a graph or chart. 

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Graph functions make it easier for businesses to track their performance and predict possible future sales, solutions, and problems. This tool allows you to make statistical calculations quickly and creates a visual representation of complex data.

Why Learning How to Graph Functions in Excel is Useful

  • Excel Helps You Visualize Your Data Quickly. Excel has a wide variety of helpful functionalities that can execute simple or complex calculations. You can use it to turn your function and data into a graph or dynamic chart in only a few simple steps.
  • You Can Improve and Gain Excel Skills. Many businesses use Excel to perform complex and day-to-day tasks. Learning how to graph functions in Excel will develop your Excel skills which can open up more opportunities for you to get promoted or apply for higher-paying jobs. 
  • Excel Helps You Learn Which Graph to Use. There are many graph types in Excel you can choose from such as column graphs and bubble charts. Trying different chart options will help you understand which are the best graphs to use for the kinds of data you want to display. One scenario might call for a bubble chart, while another requires a scatter chart. 
  • You Can See Your Data in a New Way. Graphing functions in Excel can help you see your data in a new light. This can help you view your data differently and see any problems with the data set that you may have missed before. You can add trendlines on charts to ensure they are easy to interpret. 

How to Graph Functions in Excel: A Step-By-Step Guide

Step 1: Write Down the Headers

Open the program and create a new worksheet to start your graph function in Excel. First, you’ll need to write your headers into cells. These headers will determine your input and output columns. You can either name them “x” and “y”, or you can be specific and name them “sales” and “profit”, for example. Cell A1 is your input column, cell B1 is your output column.

Step 2: Insert Your Input Variables

Now, you need to enter the values for the horizontal x-axis. Start by typing the first value in cell A2, the next value in cell A3, and continue in that column until every input variable is written. Select all the values in the input column by dragging the cursor down until you have selected them all, open the “Formula” tab at the top of the page, and click “Define Name”. Write the “x” in the name box and click “OK”.

Step 3: Enter your Formula

You’ll then need to write the formula into cell B2 for your graphing function. Start by writing the “=” symbol in the B2 cell followed by the formula. Don’t leave any spaces after the “=” or else the formula won’t work. 

For example, if you want to find out what levels of sales you need to break even, write “=(A2*50)-2500” in the cell. The “*” symbol represents multiplication, the number 50 is for the cost of each product and 2500 is what you paid for the products and advertising costs. You can use this calculation method to track anything.

Step 4: Put the Formula Into the Output Column

Now that your formula is written out and ready to use, copy the formula you have written in cell B2 by clicking on it and selecting the “Copy” icon at the top of the Home tab. Select all of the cells in your output column starting with cell B3, then select the arrow on the “Paste” option and click on “Formulas” to paste the formula into the cells of your current selection. You should end up with a value in each cell up to the column up to the last input and output variable.

Step 5: Create Your Graph

With all the difficult work done, you can now create your graph. Select all the cells in your worksheet containing variables, including the headers in your selection. Open the “Insert” tab, go to the “Chart” menu and select the type of graph you want to use out of the many options you have available. 

You can go for a scatter plot with smooth lines, a column chart, or any other chart type that will work with your data set. You can also use a trendline to make data trends more obvious. Excel has several trendline options. 

Benefits of Graph Functions in Excel

  • It’s Easy to Learn and Use. Many industries use Excel because it’s simple, widely available, and equally easy to access and understand for people. Microsoft has many training videos, and other establishments offer fantastic online Excel courses and training that can show you how to graph functions and use all of its other functionalities.
  • It Lets You Identify Trends and Issues. Looking at raw data or even data in a table can sometimes be challenging to interpret. Using Excel to graph functions can help you better assess business trends and possible problems. 
  • It Lets You Easily Create Data-Driven Reports. Excel is a fantastic software with many formulas and functions you can use to easily graph functions the data you enter into a table.
  • It Has Plenty of Customization Options. Excel allows you to quickly and easily customize your table and individual chart elements. You can customize your chart title and chart style and change a graph after you’ve made it if you need to.   
  • It’s Cheap. Microsoft 365, which comes with Excel, costs around $6 to $9 per month, depending on whether you buy it for personal or business use. It’s a cost-effective program considering everything you can do on it. 

Importance of Learning How to Use Excel Sheets

Learning how to use Excel sheets is essential for many professionals. Excel’s automated functionalities make admin and data entry and analysis jobs much easier. According to Statista, over one million companies use Office 365. Learning how to use this program will make you a valuable asset to your company. Learning how to use Excel can also open you up to job opportunities due to the sheer number of them that use it.  

If you want to broaden your horizons and learn how to use Excel sheets, you can enroll in an Excel bootcamp. Bootcamps are short-term, intensive learning programs that can teach you all you need to know about a specific topic.

How to Graph Functions in Excel FAQ

Can you add multiple functions to one graph?

Yes, you can add more functions to a graph after creating the first. First, go to “Chart Tools” and select the “Design” tab, then click the “Select Data Source” button. Add your new variables by clicking “Add” below the “Series” option. There, you can add the new variables and press “OK” to finish the process.

How do I add a title to my graph in Excel?

You can add a heading to your graph in excel by following simple steps. Click the “Chart Title” option and type in your header when you are on the chart. Next, click on the + symbol at the top-right of the graph and select the arrow. Click on Centered Overlay, and your title should appear on your graph. 

What professions use Excel often?

Professions that use Excel include sales managers, data analysts, economists, construction managers, and statisticians, among many others. There is a wide range of jobs that use Excel skills.

Why is a graph better than looking at raw data?

Using a graph to represent data is much better than looking at raw data because a graph is easier to understand and interpret.

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