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

Strikethrough Shortcut Key

One common type of formatting is strikethrough, which is normally applied from the Font dialog box. There is no built-in ...

Discover More

Making a Drop-Down List Indicator Visible

Data validation allows you to create drop-down lists that aid data entry. If you want the indicator for the drop-down ...

Discover More

Using Crop Marks with a PostScript Printer

Want to add crop marks to a printout? It's easy to do, provided you are using a PostScript printer.

Discover More

Excel Smarts for Beginners! Featuring the friendly and trusted For Dummies style, this popular guide shows beginners how to get up and running with Excel while also helping more experienced users get comfortable with the newest features. Check out Excel 2013 For Dummies today!

More ExcelTips (ribbon)

Specifying the Size of Chart Objects

Unhappy with the default size that Excel uses for embedded chart objects? You can't change the size at which they are ...

Discover More

Using Graphics to Represent Data Series

You can spice up your bar chart by using a graphic, of your choosing, to construct the bars. This tip shows how easy it ...

Discover More

Changing Elements in Lots of Charts at One Time

Got a bunch of charts that you need to make formatting changes in? You can use a macro (or two) to apply the formatting ...

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 0 + 2?

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.