Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, and 2013. If you are using an earlier version (Excel 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Excel, click here: Locking Callouts to a Graph Location.

Locking Callouts to a Graph Location

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated July 11, 2015)

4

After creating a chart in Excel, you may want to add a callout or two to the chart. For instance, there may be a spike or an anomaly in the data, and you want to include a callout that explains the aberration.

Callouts, when drawn using the drawing tools available in Excel, are graphic objects that have a "connector" that can point where you want it. This makes them great for pointing to the aberration you want explained in your chart. The problem is, if you change the data range displayed in the chart, the perspective of the chart changes, and the callout no longer points to where it used to point. (It still points to where the aberration used to appear on the chart.)

The reason for this is that the callout and the chart are not related. The callout isn't locked to a specific place on the chart; it just overlays the chart to give the desired effect. There is no way in Excel to link a callout to a specific chart point.

Most people use a different approach to adding explanatory text to their charts. Instead of using a callout, they use data labels to achieve the same purpose. Follow these steps:

  1. On the chart, select the data point that you want a "callout" associated with. The first time you click the point, the entire data series is selected. Once the series is selected, wait a moment and then click the same data point again. This time, only the single data point is selected, not the entire series.
  2. Right-click the selected data point and choose Add Data Label. A single data label should appear next to the selected data point. (If data labels appear beside all the data points, it means you didn't select only the single data point in step 1. Press Ctrl+Z to undo the change and then try again.)
  3. Click the data label twice. (Don't double click; click once, wait a moment, then click again.) A small box should appear around the label.
  4. In the Formula bar, enter the text you want used for the label. If desired, you can enter an equal sign followed by the call reference you want used for the label, as in =F7.
  5. Click outside the data label; it should now appear as desired.

You can also format the data label's font and color, as desired, and you can move the data label's position by dragging it to a different area. The data label will maintain the same relative position to the data point, even when the chart is changed.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (1154) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, and 2013. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Locking Callouts to a Graph Location.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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What is 9 + 4?

2017-03-16 12:22:51

Daniel Reddy

Is there a way to make the data callout shift over to the latest data point as you add new data?


2016-05-20 03:38:10

Nev

Excellent tip! I knew there must be a way to do this, but couldn't discover it unaided. Thanks.


2015-07-26 09:51:01

ALan

In my Excel 2010, I tried to use a call reference such as =F7 in step 4.
I got an error message "References in series formulas must be external references to worksheets" and had to use =name!$F$7 instead (where 'name' is the worksheet name).


2015-07-11 22:09:32

Bob Beechey

Instead of Add Data Label, you can also use Add Data Callout in Excel 2013


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