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Tutorial for

Data-Driven Charts 015

Waterfall Charts

Working with Waterfall Charts

Waterfall charts show simple addition: positive and negative numbers, subtotals and totals. This is a great way to give a visual representation to sums. Entering data into the worksheet in Microsoft Graph needs to be exact. You will need to do some hand calculations, as the worksheet will not calculate for you. Look at the example below to understand how to calculate and enter data into the worksheet for the chart.

After you have plotted your numbers, bring the numeric value for all segments that touch the baseline up to the top of the column/right of the bar. The other "floating" segments should have the numeric values inside the segments. You'll need to adjust the label for each floating segment. It's good to put the text right under the segment and not under the baseline. The reasons for doing this are two: 1) it is a kindness to your audience to have the label and the segment together - they don't have to work so hard to understand your message, and 2) if it is a column waterfall, you have more room for text in the labels than if they were all under the horizontal baseline.

Customizing data-driven charts

Adjust size

To adjust the size of a data-driven chart, you must double click on it and then adjust it by pulling the corner handles. Do not size without double-clicking on the chart. The text will skew and the chart may even eventually corrupt if you size incorrectly. This is important. The text may scale as you do this (which is an option you can choose or not choose). We recommend that you do not scale your text, as font size consistency is important for readability.

Color variations

The chart template will come into your presentation template and assume the default colors. The bars/columns will assume the primary fill color in your palette. If you want to change the color of a segment in order to highlight or add another layer of information, just double click on it and select another color from the Patterns menu.

Depending on the colors in your template's palette, you may need to lighten or darken the numeric values in some of the segments so that they can be seen. Just double click on the number and select a new color from in the font menu.

3D variations

3D is not recommended. 3D in charts is ambiguous and imprecise. The idea behind presenting data is to be precise. Never sacrifice clarity or concision for the sake of style.


Shadows are not recommended

Gradients, patterns, and pictures

Gradients can work in waterfall charts. Use them carefully and make sure that the gradient is not so varied that the text in the segment becomes hard to read. Also, whenever you add formatting, add it consistently throughout your presentation.


Animate with a purpose. Simple reveals are much more effective than the more "startling" animations, unless of course you are trying to startle your audience. Add pizzazz by way of content, not by adding sparkly accessories.

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