Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. 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: Controlling the Plotting of Empty Cells.

Controlling the Plotting of Empty Cells

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated December 19, 2015)

2

When you create a chart from a data table, Excel does its best to translate the numeric values into data points on a chart, according to the specifications you provide. One area where Excel doesn't quite know what to do, however, is empty cells. If a cell is empty, it could be for any number of reasons—the value isn't available, the value isn't important, or the value is really zero.

You can instruct the program how you want it to treat empty cells by following these steps:

  1. Select the chart you want to affect.
  2. Display the Design tab of the ribbon.
  3. In the Data group click the Select Data tool. Excel displays the Select Data Source dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  4. Figure 1. The Select Data Source dialog box.

  5. Click the Hidden and Empty Cells button. Excel displays the Hidden and Empty Cell Settings dialog box. (See Figure 2.)
  6. Figure 2. The Hidden and Empty Cells dialog box.

  7. Using the controls in the dialog box, specify how you want Excel to chart empty cells.
  8. Click OK to close the Hidden and Empty Cell Settings dialog box.
  9. Click OK to close the Select Data Source dialog box.

The option buttons at the top of the Hidden and Empty Cell Settings dialog box (step 5) provide the following three settings:

  • Gaps. Excel leaves gaps in the chart where the empty cells appear.
  • Zero. Excel treats the empty cells as if they contained zero values, and plots accordingly.
  • Connect Data Points with Line. Excel examines the values surrounding the empty cell, guesses what the cell value should have been, and then connects the data points with a line.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (6289) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Controlling the Plotting of Empty Cells.

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. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Including Datasheet Rows or Columns in a Chart

Controlling which datasheet information is graphed in a chart.

Discover More

Pulling Initial Letters from a String

When working with names or a different series of words, you may need to pull the initial letters from each word in the ...

Discover More

Automatic Blank Pages at the End of a Section

If you want to have a blank page at the end of a document section, you can insert one manually or you can use the ...

Discover More

Professional Development Guidance! Four world-class developers offer start-to-finish guidance for building powerful, robust, and secure applications with Excel. The authors show how to consistently make the right design decisions and make the most of Excel's powerful features. Check out Professional Excel Development today!

More ExcelTips (ribbon)

Positive and Negative Colors in a Chart

When creating a line cart, the line can show values both positive and negative values. This tip explains how you can use ...

Discover More

Converting Charts to GIF Files

You spent a lot of time getting your chart to look just the way you wanted. Now you want to create a graphic file from ...

Discover More

Easily Changing Chart Data Ranges

Want a handy way to make the data ranges for your chart more dynamic? Here are some great ideas you can put to work right ...

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.

Comments

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is three less than 4?

2019-02-19 14:38:46

Craig Brummell

If you have formulas in the blank cells this will not work and the graphs take it as a zero and display the line, no matter what the setting.


2017-01-07 08:02:50

Walt

That solution might work for some but my MS Office Excel which has all the same icons or boxes as in the example doesn't cooperate.

The details are: Windows 7 Home Premium.

Any suggestions?


This Site

Got a version of Excel that uses the ribbon interface (Excel 2007 or later)? This site is for you! If you use an earlier version of Excel, visit our ExcelTips site focusing on the menu interface.

Newest Tips
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.