How-to Make Excel Put Years as the Chart Horizontal Axis Categories

I saw this post in a forum yesterday and thought that everyone should know this.  Lord knows that I didn’t know this until just a few years ago and it would drive me crazy.

Here was the question from the forum:

“Thanks in advance – this is embarrassing. Very basic question. My data below:Year Gross Profit2013 $61.5 2014 $50.3 2015 $43.8 I simply want to the years displayed on the X-axis on a bar chart … but it keeps displaying the years as values, so I have two values – one year and one gross profit – with data series labeled 1,2,3. Thank you.”

Here is what the Excel user’s data would look like with years on the left and gross profit on the right:image

When the user created the 2-D column chart, here is what he got:image

Notice that Microsoft Excel created another series for the year.  It was supposed to be the categories for the horizontal axis.   But instead, Excel put in the generic, 1, 2, 3 for the axis.

So how do you fix it?

Solution: Remove the column header of “Year” from the chart data range.

See what happens when you delete “Year” from row a1?  The chart does what is desired.image

Now you can always put the year back into the column header after the fact:image

It is a simple Excel Tip and Trick, but until you see it once, you probably didn’t know about it.  Maybe they teach this as the first thing in all the classes, but I didn’t see this for the longest time.  Now you know too Smile

Video Tutorial

Check this out in action with this video demonstration:

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  1. Spent over an hour trying to show the Years on the X horizontal on my Combo Excel chart, and your solution was so simple. As suggested in other posts, I tried reformatting the type of cell several ways, and it did not work that well. Thanks.

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  3. Thanks for an amazingly simple solution to a most frustrating problem. After wasting an hour and a half I can now get on with the job in hand.

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    • Hi Sandip, of course, they do 🙂 I wouldn’t post without it really working. This is an easy one, so watch the video and give it a shot.

        • Thanks Kelli, I missed that. Excel sees any column of numbers as another data series when it has a header text. Removing the header text tells Excel to consider this column of numbers as the category label and not a data series. NOTE: that it only works on the left most column of numbers/years. If you have a column of years in the middle of other columns of numbers, removing the header text will not remove it as a series. In essence, if you have the following columns:


          If you remove the Dept and Year header text, it will create a a multi level level category label of Dept/Year and you will have 2 series of values. If you leave Year header text, the year will be considered a series and you will have 3 series of values that also includes the year.

          Hope this helps!

  5. Isn’t working for me. I have to omit that column or it gives me a series bar and wont change the labels to 2000, 2001 etc. They stay 1, 2, 3…


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