Productivity

How to Create Self-Updating Microsoft Excel Charts in 3 Easy Steps

Anthony Grant Updated 06-01-2020

If you’re like me, you love the idea of Excel charts and can think of dozens of useful applications for them. But what happens when you need to add more data? It can seem like a lot of manual work to make changes. Well, no more! I’m going to show you how to make a graph in Microsoft Excel that updates automatically.

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Once you set it up all you’ll have to do is add data to the spreadsheet, and the chart will automatically graph it.

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All you do need to understand are the fundamentals of Microsoft Excel charts to get started.

Why Use Excel Charts?

Charts allow you to use data in Excel to make decisions. They’re a nice change from staring at rows and columns of numbers.

They help shorten the decision-making process, as you can immediately see your results and where changes may need to happen. The difficulty in handling data and charts is that you constantly have to go back to the chart and update it for new data.

Creating charts in Microsoft Excel may seem intimidating, but it’s easy to create a chart in Excel and even one that updates automatically.

1. Set Up an Excel Spreadsheet

To create a chart that will update automatically you need to set up a spreadsheet that can house the data you want to use. The formatting is important because you want to be able to add more data without having to re-arrange everything.

Here is a basic layout with some neat formatting:

Excel Raw Data

Input your information and make sure that each column has a header. The headers are important for labeling data in your table, and your chart.

For this project, I’m creating a chart that tracks sales of each Harry Potter novel at a bookshop.

This format works best because you can extend entries into new rows below. In this example, as new sales data is recorded you would add it to the spreadsheet starting in row 11. Here is the table with a new row added to show how easy it is to add information.

Updated Excel Raw Data

Now that the range is formatted, headers are labeled, and data is filled, you’re ready to move on to the next step.

2. Create a Table

In Microsoft Excel, tables a powerful way to work with a range of data.

In addition to making your data look neat and tidy, they have many more tools to organize and sort your information. The goal here is to create a table that feeds data to a chart. Linking these two pieces together allows the chart to check for new data in the table and automatically update.

To create a table, select all the data you would like to turn into an Excel chart. Then head to the Insert tab and select Table. Alternatively, you can use the shortcut CTRL + T.

Excel Insert Table

In the Create Table prompt, you can adjust the cells included in the table. Since you are using headers in the range, check the box labeled My table has headers, then press OK.

Excel Create Table

Your data will now be transformed into an Excel table! Notice the formatting change, which means it has been converted from a regular range. You can also change the color scheme if the default isn’t quite your favorite.

Updated Excel Table for Chart

Now that the information is neatly arranged in a table, it’s time to create a chart.

3. Insert a Chart and Add Data

Highlight the table and head to Insert > Charts to choose what kind of visualization to use. The chart will depend on what kind of data you’re working with. For my example, I’m using a line graph. This allows me to compare several different columns worth of data in one chart, and it works very well with automated updates.

Excel Line Chart

Here is the line chart comparing the book sales by date, Excel will automatically color the lines for you. If you move your mouse over any point on the line, Excel will show you that value in your table.

Now we can test out how well our chart works by adding new data into the table. Fortunately, this is by far the easiest part of the process.

To add more data, simply add another row at the bottom of your existing chart. Since the Date column dictates the values on the X-axis of your chart you will want to start there.

The Excel table will match the formatting of previous rows, so your date will automatically match what you have entered so far. This is a neat feature built into Excel tables.

Excel Table Add Row

You may see a dialog warning you that the table inserted rows into the worksheet — this is fine. Your chart should have already updated to include the new entry on its X-axis.

Now you can add all your new data, and the chart will update automatically with the new information.

Excel Table and Chart

Above, you can see that I added a sales count of 10 for each book to prompt the chart to update.

Now you can update the chart over and over again, simply by adding more rows to the table. However, you may have to tweak its size and formatting to present all the data properly Automatically Format Data in Excel Spreadsheets With Conditional Formatting Excel's conditional formatting feature lets you format individual cells in an Excel spreadsheet based on their value. We show you how to use this for various everyday tasks. Read More , depending on how much you’re planning to add.

Make Microsoft Excel Work for You

One of the most powerful aspects of Microsoft Excel is the ability to create sheets that update automatically and save you time. This might be something as simple as creating a basic self-updating chart, as we’ve seen here. It might be something more challenging like learning how to make a box and whisker plot in Excel.

By putting in a little effort up-front, you can save plenty of time later on. Challenge yourself to learn something new in Microsoft Excel, and it will pay off in the long run. If you’re wanting to try out some more charts, check out these six Excel charts 6 New Excel Charts and How to Use Them Need to get more out of your Excel charts? Here's a one-stop guide to some of the new charts introduced in the latest version of Excel. Read More to learn a little more.

Explore more about: Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Office 2016, Microsoft Office 2019, Microsoft Office 365, Spreadsheet.

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  1. Sofia Jackson
    January 8, 2020 at 10:18 am

    Very interesting article. Thanks a lot for sharing!

  2. crab
    March 28, 2019 at 2:50 pm

    Thanks, this was very helpful and the instructions were clear and simple. Everything works great.

  3. seun
    September 13, 2018 at 12:20 pm

    hi,i am new to excel and i need to create a work sheet where i can have many colums and rows and also whenever i input figures in it update the total automatically...is there a constant formular to achieve that...in summary i want the table to update it self as soon as i insert new values/figures..my email is

  4. Mary Grace
    April 4, 2018 at 8:05 pm

    I recently wrote a VBA code that executes this function flawlessly; however, the graph is experiencing a significant lag in response time. For instance, my data is reading in continuously every second and instead of the graph depicting new data points every second, it lags for a minute or a few second and plots several points all at once. It is important to the project that I am working on that the graph update continuously, in real time, for visual purposes. Has anyone come across the same situation? If so, is there anything I can do to improve this issue?

  5. Tom C
    March 14, 2018 at 12:16 am

    Could use help with a program I want to make

  6. Tom Costantiello
    March 14, 2018 at 12:15 am

    I have a financial retirement planning calculator excel program I created. Would like to make inputs and have graphs automatically update

    Hoping you can offer some suggestions or possible a solution

  7. Jayasri
    January 19, 2018 at 10:46 am

    Thanks it was seriously helped me at the right time. Am doing a VBA coding to automatically update the graph value when a new entry is made. I checked all the codings and nothing workedout. Simply i changed the data to table it worked.

  8. Paras Khaitan
    December 19, 2017 at 1:28 am

    This is sick perfect. Precisely what I wanted. I work with 50 charts which require updating every week. And that was always very daunting. This technique works perfectly. Thanks a ton.

  9. lakdeepa
    October 19, 2017 at 10:38 am

    you are posting a good information for people and keep maintain and give more update too.

  10. Ann Archuleta
    May 19, 2016 at 2:36 am

    Savvy article ! I loved the details ! Does someone know if my assistant would be able to get access to a sample a form version to type on ?

  11. Anonymous
    June 22, 2015 at 7:02 am

    We have a chart to fill out daily about our hourly production which includes our hourly pitch, our actual pitch for the hour, a list of all the stations so we know exactly how many parts were lost there due to production downtime, scrap, and three other columns that would be the reason as to why we didn't make the hour (start up, cycle time, other), overproduction if we did over produce, and a column for comments as to noting when and why we were down or if something happened at that particular hour. Based on these columm headings, how do I connect this chart to auto populate in another sheet to automatically make a list based on my chart? I need to make lists of each seperate station and their down times and when, a list of scrap that we get and which kind of scrap, etc. This also has to be accessible to whomever and it will be updated daily so I also need new information entered to show up in the appropriate list according to conditions.

  12. Dan
    January 30, 2015 at 7:28 pm

    Does it matter if your data goes across say from B6-Q6 instead of going down from B6-B37? Would you need to change any part of the "Offset formula"?

    • Sandesh
      November 13, 2016 at 3:03 pm

      Please refer to formula
      OFFSET(reference, rows, cols, [height], [width])

      “=OFFSET(Sheet1!$B$7,0,0,1,COUNTA(Sheet1!$B$6:$Q$6)-1)“

      Add "1" before COUNTA that will be for 1 Row.

  13. Tim
    November 12, 2009 at 10:32 pm

    great looking arrow

  14. Greg
    October 31, 2009 at 9:59 am

    It's also may be good to note that if you are a bit more technically inclined, you can do some really cool dynamic charts using VBA. A few years ago I created a trending chart that used slider bars to zoom and scroll through the history of the chart.

    • Paul
      November 2, 2009 at 1:24 pm

      Good point, Greg. A while back I was wanting to create a self updating chart for my employees to use where they just entered the data and the chart work was done for them. I spent several weeks learning VBA methods and ended up using VBA for the entire workbook, including sorting, printing and "goto" buttons, checkboxes, and the works. Then I figured out this easy method for simple charts.

      I'm glad I got the VBA experience but it was frustrating knowing how simple what I really wanted was!

      Hence the "Easy Steps" in the title. I wanted to share this with other Excel "charters" out there. VBA in Excel will probably be a subject of some of my future articles.

    • Dan
      January 30, 2015 at 7:30 pm

      Paul does it matter if your data goes across from say cell b6-q6 instead of going down from b6-b37? Would you need to adjust the offset formula in any way?

  15. Arturas
    October 30, 2009 at 6:36 pm

    it might be interesting to check out web based pivot table and charts at flexmonster.com