Emphasize Chart Data With Exploding Pie Charts in Excel

Exploding Pie, Pie of Pie, and Bar of Pie Charts in Excel
Exploding Pie, Pie of Pie, and Bar of Pie Charts in Excel. © Ted French

Excel has several options for adding emphasizes to specific sections or slices of a pie chart that do not involve changing or rearranging the chart data. These include:

  • exploding or pulling out the chosen slice from the rest of the pie;
  • focusing one or more slices using a Pie of Pie chart;
  • focusing one or more slices using a Bar of Pie chart.

Exploding Out a Single Slice of Pie

To add emphasis to a particular piece of a pie chart you can move or "explode" this slice out from the rest of the chart as can be seen in the left side of the image above.

To do this:

  1. Click once with the mouse pointer on the plot area of the pie chart to highlight it - small bluish circles or dots should be visible around the outside edge of the pie;
  2. Click a second time on the slice to be exploded;
  3. The dots should now surround just this single slice of pie - including a dot in the center of the chart;
  4. Click and drag with the mouse pointer on the selected slice of the pie, pulling it out or exploding it away from the rest of the chart;
  5. To move the exploded slice back to its original location, use Excel's undo feature if possible;
  6. If not, repeat steps 1 and 2 above and then drag the slice back to the pie. It will automatically return to its original location.

Exploding the Entire Pie

 If all of the slices in the chart explode out it means that you did not select just a single slice. To correct this, drag the slices back together and try steps 2 and 3 above again.

Pie of Pie and Bar of Pie Charts

Another option for adding emphasizes to certain parts of a pie chart is to use a pie of pie or a bar of pie chart instead of a regular pie chart.

If you have one or two larger slices that dominate the pie chart, making it difficult to see the details of the smaller slices, switch to one of these two chart types, which emphasize the smaller slices in a secondary chart - either a second pie chart or a stacked bar chart, the choice is yours.

Unless changed, Excel will automatically include the three smallest slices (data points) in the secondary pie or stack bar chart.

To create a pie of pie or bar of pie chart:

  1. Highlight the range of data to be used in the chart;
  2. Click on the Insert tab of the ribbon;
  3. In the Charts box of the ribbon, click on the Insert Pie Chart icon to open the drop down menu of available chart types;
  4. Hover your mouse pointer over a chart type to read a description of the chart;
  5. Click on either pie of pie or bar of pie chart in the 2-D Pie section of the drop down menu to add that chart to the worksheet.

Note: The left-hand chart is always the main chart, with the secondary chart always appearing on its right. This arrangement cannot be changed.

Switching Chart Types

To switch from an existing regular pie chart to either a pie of pie or bar of pie chart:

  1. Right-click the current chart to open the context menu;
  2. In the menu, click on Change Chart Type to open the Change Chart Type dialog box;
  3. In the dialog box, click on the All Charts tab;
  4. Click on Pie in the left-hand pane, and then click on Pie of Pie or Bar of Pie in the right-hand pane for the dialog box.

Changing the Number of Data Points

To change the number of data points (slices) displayed in the secondary chart:

  1. Right-click on the other slice in the chart (the data used to create the secondary chart) to open the Format Data Series pane;
  2. In the pane, click on the down arrow next to the Split Series By option.

The options related to changing the number of data points in the secondary chart are:

  • Split the series by Position: in the Values in second plot box, enter the number of positions or slices displayed in the secondary chart - 3 minimum;
  • Split the series by Value: in the Values less than box, enter a number that is larger than the smallest data value to be displayed in the secondary chart;
  • Split the series by Percentage value: in the Values less than box, enter a percent value between 0% and 100% - this value relates to the percent of the main chart's total value to be displayed in the secondary chart.