You’ve probably used Excel a lot, especially when cleaning up your data and making little bar and pie charts here and there when you need to.  If you need a quick pie chart, and you don’t spend any time trying to make it look nice, you’ll probably end up with something like this:

HEY WAKE UP!  Don’t let that boring pie chart put you to sleep.  Here are three simple tricks to make it look much more interesting.  It’s as easy as pie. 

(Yes. I went there.)

Tip # 1. Give it a little dimension. 
Excel has six different pie graph options for you to choose from. Four are 2-D and two are 3-D.  There is nothing wrong with a 2-dimensional pie graph, especially if you have many categories that could get lost in a 3-dimensional graph.  Use good judgement when choosing which pie chart is right for your data. If you have fewer categories that are better represented in a 3-D pie graph, go for it.

Tip # 2. Rotate your pie so that the smaller categories are seen. 

For some reason, when you make a pie chart on Excel, Excel tends to stick the smaller categories toward the back and bring the big piece to the front.  I suppose Excel’s logic is that you would want to see the larger value up front.  But what if the smaller values are what you’re really trying to show?

This can be fixed.  Right-click the pie chart and choose “Format Data Series.”  Under “Series Options” in the “Angle of the First Slice” section, slide the rotation notch to the right (somewhere between 90 and 100 should be fine, but you can play around with this). Viola.  Your small value slices have gotten upgraded to front and center.

Tip # 3. Make one piece of the pie explode

Who doesn’t want to see a slice of pie explode?  Not only is this great clown comedy, it’s a good way make one category or value of your pie stand out from the rest.  Earlier when you chose the type of pie graph you wanted, you could choose one that already has all the slices exploded.  Here is how you can make just one slice explode:

When you click on the pie graph, you’ll see that little “handles” appear on the edges. When you click on just one slice of the pie, the same thing happens.  Drag that piece of the pie out…and bam. Pie slice explosion.

Next time you need to make a pie graph on Excel, consider some ways to  make it look more interesting.  Your audience will appreciate it.

By the way, that first pie graph shown above (the gray, bland one) is intended for giggles, but believe it or not, that is an actual color scheme by Excel.  Please, please, please, stay away from that option.  While you’re at it, stay away from single-color schemes, where pieces of the pie are different shades of green or orange, for example.  To make each of your pieces stand out, use different colors.  And stick with solid colors.  Patterns can get distracting.

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