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Locking Callouts to a Graph Location

Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Excel 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Excel, click here: Locking Callouts to a Graph Location.

After creating a chart in Excel, you may want to add a callout or two to the chart. For instance, there may be a spike or an anomaly in the data, and you want to include a callout that explains the aberration.

Callouts, when drawn using the Drawing toolbar, are graphic objects that have a "connector" that can point where you want it. This makes them great for pointing to the aberration you want explained in your chart. The problem is, if you change the data range displayed in the chart, the perspective of the chart changes, and the callout no longer points to where it used to point. (It still points to where the aberration used to appear on the chart.)

The reason for this is that the callout and the chart are not related. The callout isn't locked to a specific place on the chart; it just overlays the chart to give the desired effect. There is no way in Excel to link a callout to a specific chart point.

Most people use a different approach to adding explanatory text to their charts. Instead of using a callout, they use data labels to achieve the same purpose. Follow these steps:

  1. On the chart, select the data point that you want a "callout" associated with. The first time you click the point, the entire data series is selected. Once the series is selected, wait a moment and then click the same data point again. This time, only the single data point is selected, not the entire series.
  2. Right-click the selected data point and choose Format Data Point from the resulting Context menu. Excel displays the Format Data Point dialog box. (If you don't see the Format Data Point option on the Context menu, it means you didn't select only the single data point in step 1.)
  3. Make sure the Data Labels tab is selected. (See Figure 1.)
  4. Figure 1. The Data Labels tab of the Format Data Point dialog box.

  5. Make sure the Value check box is selected.
  6. Click OK. The value of the data point appears, as a number, on the chart's representation of the data point.
  7. Click the data label twice. (Don't double click; click once, wait a moment, then click again.) A small box should appear around the label.
  8. In the Formula bar, enter the text you want used for the label. If desired, you can enter an equal sign followed by the call reference you want used for the label, as in =F7.
  9. Click outside the data label; it should now appear as desired.

You can also format the data label's font and color, as desired, and you can move the data label's position by dragging it to a different area. The data label will maintain the same relative position to the data point, even when the chart is changed.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (3007) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Excel (Excel 2007 and later) here: Locking Callouts to a Graph Location.

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