Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Microsoft 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: Controlling Chart Gridlines.

Controlling Chart Gridlines

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated November 20, 2021)
This tip applies to Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Microsoft 365


When you create a chart from your data, Excel automatically takes care of many of the actual details related to how a specific chart appears. One of the elements that can be included on many of the charts is gridlines. Gridlines are helpful for easily determining the height or width of graphic elements used in your chart.

Excel allows you to specifically control which gridlines are displayed or if any are displayed at all. You can do so by following these steps if you are using Excel 2007 or Excel 2010:

  1. Select the chart by clicking on it. You should see selection handles appear around the outside of the chart.
  2. Make sure that the Layout tab of the ribbon is displayed. (This tab is only visible when you've selected the chart in step 1.)
  3. Click the Gridlines tool in the Axes group. You'll see a drop-down menu appear with various options.
  4. Use the Primary Horizontal Gridlines option or the Primary Vertical Gridlines option to make changes to the gridlines, as desired.

You can't use the above steps in later versions of Excel because Microsoft decided, in their wisdom, to remove the Layout tab entirely. Instead, you can control the gridlines by following these steps:

  1. Select the chart by clicking on it. You should see selection handles appear around the outside of the chart.
  2. Make sure that the Format tab of the ribbon is displayed. (This tab is only visible when you've selected the chart in step 1.)
  3. In the Current Selection group, use the drop-down list to choose the gridlines you want to control.
  4. Click the Format Selection tool, also within the Current Selection group. Excel displays a Format task pane at the right side of the program window.
  5. Use the controls in the task pane to make changes to the gridlines, as desired.
  6. Close the task pane.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (9902) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Microsoft 365. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Controlling Chart Gridlines.

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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