Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Office 365. 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: Changing the Axis Scale.

Changing the Axis Scale

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated March 16, 2019)

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Excel includes an impressive graphing capability that can turn the dullest data into outstanding charts, complete with all sorts of whiz-bang do-dads to amaze your friends and confound your enemies. While Excel can automatically handle many of the mundane tasks associated with turning raw data into a chart, you may still want to change some elements of your chart.

For instance, you may want to change the scale Excel uses along an axis of your chart. (The scale automatically chosen by Excel may not represent the entire universe of possibilities you want conveyed in your chart.) You can change the scale used by Excel by following these steps in Excel 2007 or Excel 2010:

  1. Right-click on the axis whose scale you want to change. Excel displays a Context menu for the axis.
  2. Choose Format Axis from the Context menu. (If there is no Format Axis choice, then you did not right-click on an axis in step 1.) Excel displays the Format Axis dialog box.
  3. Make sure Axis Options is clicked at the left of the dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  4. Figure 1. The Axis Options of the Format Axis dialog box.

  5. Adjust the scale settings (top of the dialog box—Minimum, Maximum, etc.) as desired.
  6. Click on OK.

In Excel 2013 and later versions, the steps are different:

  1. Right-click on the axis whose scale you want to change. Excel displays a Context menu for the axis.
  2. Choose Format Axis from the Context menu. (If there is no Format Axis choice, then you did not right-click on an axis in step 1.) Excel displays the Format Axis task pane at the right side of the screen.
  3. Make sure Axis Options area is expanded. (Click on Axis Options and then the Axis Options icon.) (See Figure 2.)
  4. Figure 2. The Axis Options in the Format Axis task pane.

  5. Adjust the Bounds and Units settings, as desired. These, along with a couple of other settings in the task pane, determine the scale used to display your chart.
  6. Close the Format Axis task pane.

Note that in order to adjust the Bounds and Units settings, Excel needs to recognize the data in an axis as a range of values (e.g. dates). There will not be the option to change Bounds and Units if the data is recognized as discreet values by Excel (e.g. item names).

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (9267) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Office 365. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Changing the Axis Scale.

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 nine less than 9?

2019-05-29 20:44:48

Chris Rule

This is great thanks. Is it possible to have the maximum in the bounds section automatically find the date when the data in the chart reaches zero?


2019-03-19 05:04:28

Pat Ryan

I have a chart which is based on data that others users select. Depending on their roles, some users select large values and others select small ones, so I have set the maximum to auto, though the minimum must always be zero.

For some users, the values are so small that the major units are then <1. For example, the scale may be 0-4, with major units at 0.5, 1, 1.5, etc. But the charts are counting people and you can't have less than a whole person, so these units simply don't make sense in these cases.

Is there a way to set the scale so that the maximum and major units will be automatic, but the major units will never be less than 1? i.e. automatic but with a limit?


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