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Logarithmic Scale In An Excel Chart

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When you have a large numerical range of data and you want to plot a graph, you will most probable end up with a skewed looking chart like the one below:

prelog

You can use the logarithmic scale (log scale) in the Format Axis dialogue box to scale your chart by a base of 10.

What this does is it multiplies the vertical axis units by 10, so it starts at 1, 10, 100, 1000, 10000, 100000, 1000000 etc.  This scales the chart to show a more even spread, like the image below:

log

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Logarithimc Scale

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Comments

  • Connor Jackson November 16, 2016, 12:21 AM

    Hi Jon,
    Do you have any Sample Datasets which we can use to show off the features of the Premium Peltier Tech toolset? Can we download them please?

    Regards
    Connor Jackson

    Reply
    • John Michaloudis John Michaloudis November 27, 2016, 6:58 PM

      Hey Connor,

      Please get in contact with Jon Peltier at jon@peltiertech.com and he will be able to help you in getting you this data set.

      Cheers,
      John

  • Jon Peltier November 4, 2016, 7:22 PM

    If you need a logarithmic scale, then a column chart isn’t really going to help. We judge the values in a column chart by the length of the bars, and we’re not very good at judging lengths against a nonlinear scale.

    Better to use a line chart, in which we can judge the position along the axis scale. Even though we’re not really good at nonlinear scales, the line chart doesn’t give us the initial bar-length-equals-value precognitive impression to overcome.

    Reply
    • John Michaloudis John Michaloudis November 4, 2016, 8:14 PM

      Nice tip Jon, I am sure lots of people will try the line chart instead.

      One question, it appears that a log-scale for the Y axis is not possible in Excel 2016.

      Do you know anything about this?

      John

    • Jon Peltier November 4, 2016, 8:46 PM

      Sure, it’s possible. Double click the axis, and above the Tick Marks section of the Format Axis dialog, just above the checkmark for Values in Reverse Order, is a check box for Logarithmic Scale.

      I know this is just sample data, but a log scale really doesn’t tell you much more than January was way higher than every other month, and the other months didn’t differ much from each other. The log scale lets you plot all of the data on one chart, but it also flattens the differences between any two points.

      It just shows how careful you need to be, and that getting all points into a single chart may not be what you really need to do.

    • John Michaloudis John Michaloudis November 11, 2016, 2:47 AM

      Thanks for that Jonno!

      And for everyone else here, Jon was kind enough to elaborate on his point with a very detailed post which you can see here: CHART A WIDE RANGE OF VALUES

      Cheers buddy!

    • Jon Peltier November 11, 2016, 5:04 AM

      Jon, thanks for the link.

  • Dave October 7, 2016, 2:03 PM

    In Excel 2016, box and whisker plots are now available, but it appears that a log-scale for the Y axis is not possible? Help!

    Reply
    • John Michaloudis John Michaloudis November 15, 2016, 5:35 PM

      Hey Dave,

      Sure, it’s possible. Double click the axis, and above the Tick Marks section of the Format Axis dialog, just above the checkmark for Values in Reverse Order, is a check box for Logarithmic Scale.

      Thanks,
      John