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Controlling the Plotting of Empty Cells

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: Controlling the Plotting of Empty Cells.

When you create a chart from a data table, Excel does its best to translate the numeric values into data points on a chart, according to the specifications you provide. One area where Excel doesn't quite know what to do, however, is empty cells. If a cell is empty, it could be for any number of reasons—the value isn't available, the value isn't important, or the value is really zero.

You can instruct the program how you want it to treat empty cells by following these steps:

  1. Select the chart you want to affect.
  2. Choose Options from the Tools menu. Excel displays the Options dialog box.
  3. Make sure the Chart tab is displayed. (See Figure 1.)
  4. Figure 1. The Chart tab of the Options dialog box.

  5. Using the option buttons at the top of the dialog box, specify how you want Excel to chart empty cells.
  6. Click OK.

If the option buttons are not available at the top of the screen, it means that you don't have a chart visible on the screen. The option buttons provide three different settings:

  • Not Plotted. Excel leaves gaps in the chart where the empty cells appear.
  • Zero. Excel treats the empty cells as if they contained zero values, and plots accordingly.
  • Interpolated. Excel examines the values surrounding the empty cell and guesses what value the cell should contain based on those values.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (3054) 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: Controlling the Plotting of Empty Cells.

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Comments for this tip:

Andrew    02 Oct 2013, 18:03
I have a simple Excel 2003 chart that is plotting data values over a year. The data values are entered into the cells at the start of each day - the cells are empty until the data value is entered, i.e. they do not start with a value of 0 and there is no formula setting a value of "", etc.

I have selected the chart and then selected Tools > Options > Chart > Plot empty cells as: Not plotted (leave gaps), however the line on the graph drops to zero for empty cells and runs along the X axis for the remainder of the year.

Any ideas why this might not be working, and how I can get the line to "not display" for blank cells?

Thanks.
 
 

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