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.

Controlling the Plotting of Empty Cells

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated September 15, 2012)

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.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Pasting Clean Text

One of the most helpful tools in Word is the ability to paste straight text into a document. This is used so much on my ...

Discover More

Creating Custom AutoText Categories

Want to categorize your AutoText entries? You can easily do so using the techniques described in this tip.

Discover More

Setting Subscript Depth in the Equation Editor

You can specify exactly where subscripts appear in your equations.

Discover More

Solve Real Business Problems Master business modeling and analysis techniques with Excel and transform data into bottom-line results. This hands-on, scenario-focused guide shows you how to use the latest Excel tools to integrate data from multiple tables. Check out Microsoft Excel 2013 Data Analysis and Business Modeling today!

MORE EXCELTIPS (MENU)

Easily Changing Chart Data Ranges

Want a handy way to make the data ranges for your chart more dynamic? Here are some great ideas you can put to work right ...

Discover More

Multiple Data Points in a Chart Column

Excel provides lots of ways you can create charts. This tip provides some pointers on how you can combine stacked column ...

Discover More

Make that Chart Quickly!

Need to generate a chart in the fastest possible way? Just use this shortcut key and you'll have one faster than you can yell ...

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.

Comments for this tip:

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)

This Site

Got a version of Excel that uses the menu interface (Excel 97, Excel 2000, Excel 2002, or Excel 2003)? This site is for you! If you use a later version of Excel, visit our ExcelTips site focusing on the ribbon interface.

Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.

Links and Sharing
Share