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How to Create Awesome Charts in Pages

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In one of my previous tutorials, I gave you an introduction to Pages on OS X -- showing you how to create your first document, add some text and images and how to get it exactly how you wanted it to look. However, one thing I didn't cover is how to create charts in Pages for your data, as I think that it's worth going into a bit more detail here in a separate tutorial (i.e. this one!).

Data manipulation using iWork is fairly similar to Microsoft Office (for more advanced stuff, I prefer using Excel but for plotting charts and the like, Numbers and Pages is my programme of choice) and although there are a few little annoyances, it's fairly easy to get your data into a beautiful and professional-looking chart. Let's find out how.


Getting Started

Go ahead and load up Pages then click on New Document in the bottom left-hand corner. I'm going to show you how to create a chart in just a normal, blank document but remember you can add charts to any kind of Pages document, including newsletters, reports and posters (if you want!).

Pages allows you to create all sorts of charts, from bar to scatter graphs.

Pages allows you to create all sorts of charts, from bar to scatter graphs.

When you click on the Charts icon in the toolbar, you are presented with a drop-down box with a number of different kinds of charts. From within Pages, you can create bar, line and pie charts (plus combinations of the two, such as a bar and line chart) and scatter graphs, which for most people's purposes will suffice.


Placing Your Chart

For starters, I'm going to create a bar chart for some sample sales data for two different products across a few years. I'm going to choose a standard bar chart (the first icon in the box) for simplicity's sake -- Pages then inserts the chart into my document. You can always reposition your chart after you've finished editing but I find it easiest to select where I want my chart to go before I start editing it -- to do this, simply position the cursor (by clicking with the mouse) to the place where you want your chart to belong.

The options available to you when creating a chart in Pages.

The options available to you when creating a chart in Pages.

As you can see in the screenshot above, the Inspector comes up on the Chart view (which we'll look at in a minute) and you also get the Data Editor screen, where you can input your own data. Let's go ahead and do that now.


Working With Data

When it comes to charts, there are two ways of working with data. The first (which is by far the easiest option) is to simply manipulate your data in Numbers (and yes, there's a tutorial for that too!) then paste it in. Otherwise, you can enter your data straight into the Editor and the useful thing about this method is that your chart will update automaticall y with the new data, so you can see exactly what it will look like.

The data editor within Pages.

The data editor within Pages.

For my sample sales data, I've entered the different years across the top, with one year per column, and each sales item running down the side, with one item per row. Notice how Pages has automatically assigned each row a colour, allowing you to distinguish between them really easily. We can, of course, change these later on.

You can always add extra rows or columns as necessary by clicking on the Add Row or Add Column buttons within the data editor. To delete a row or column, simply select it (Pages will highlight it in blue) then right-click and select either Delete Row or Delete Column.

Deleting a column within the data editor.

Deleting a column within the data editor.

Once you've entered all your data, Pages will present you with your completed chart. You can always edit the data later on by clicking on the Edit Data button in the toolbar above -- this will bring up the data editor as we saw above.

The finished product!

The finished product!

Now that we've got our data in our chart, it's time to start playing around with it!


Customising Your Chart

Just liked I mentioned in my previous tutorials, when it comes to customising anything within the iWork suite then the Inspector view is your friend. Select your chart and click on it now (it's in the top right-hand corner of the screen) -- the Chart view should be displayed automatically.

The Inspector allows you to customise your graph to exactly how you want it.

The Inspector allows you to customise your graph to exactly how you want it.

From the first tab (Chart) I can choose my chart type (if you want to change it, Pages will automatically match the data to the new chart type) and customise the look of my chart. To add a title, click on the Show Title checkbox where a new text box will appear above your chart which you can edit.

Adding a title to your chart.

Adding a title to your chart.

You can also choose whether or not your chart has a legend by selecting the Show Legend checkbox. By default, it goes below your chart but if you click on the legend, you can drag it around to its desired position. Unlike Word, Pages does not include support for captions on graphs, so if you want to give your graph a description then you'll have to do this manually by typing some text underneath it then formatting it as desired.

Changing the colour of your chart.

Changing the colour of your chart.

To change the colours in your chart, simply click on the Chart Colors button, where a new dialogue box will pop up. Here, you can select from a number of different colour schemes already built into Pages -- select the one that takes your fancy the most then click on the Apply All button. Your chart will be updated with the new colour scheme automatically.


Playing With the Axes

Pages automatically selects axes that fit your data the best, but depending on your data this may give you some odd results (as you can see in the examples above, the steps are 0, 37.5, 75, 112.5 and 150, which to me looks a little messy). Luckily there is an easy way to customise your axes, so go ahead and click on the Axis tab within the Chart view in the Inspector.

Customising the axes within the Inspector.

Customising the axes within the Inspector.

As you can see under the section titled Value Axis (Y) you can customise the Y-axis (i.e. the one that runs vertically) by selecting the maximum or minimum data value (useful if you don't want your axis to start from 0, for example) and the number of steps. For this data, I've chosen 6 steps as it gives me a neat progression (0, 25, 50, 75 and so on).

As you can see, I've now got 6 steps in my chart instead of 4, which looks a lot neater.

As you can see, I've now got 6 steps in my chart instead of 4, which looks a lot neater.

If you click on the Choose Axis Options drop-down box then Pages presents you with some more advanced customisation options for your axis.

Some more advanced options for your axes.

Some more advanced options for your axes.

Here you can choose between a linear and log scale (for the maths geeks) and customise the look of your graph further, such as tick marks and gridlines. From the Inspector you can also format the numbers in your graph (much like in Numbers) -- this feature is useful if you're working with a custom number format such as a currency or percentage.


Other Stuff

Clicking on the Series tab brings up a couple of more options that allow you to customise your graph further. You can, for example, add value labels to each data set which makes it easier for readers to see individual bits of data. I find that this works best in charts that do not have as many data points -- with scatter graphs, for example, where you may have 50 sets of data it can start to look a bit messy.

Data labels make it a lot easier for readers to see the individual values of your columns.

Data labels make it a lot easier for readers to see the individual values of your columns.

From the Series tab you can also add a variety of different trendlines (linear, logarithmic, polynomial and so on) and error bars, if this is necessary for your chart.


Exporting Your Charts

If you want to use your chart in another piece of iWork software, such as Numbers or Keynote then you can simply select it by clicking with the mouse then copying and pasting it to wherever you like.

My graph that I've just created in a Keynote presentation.

My graph that I've just created in a Keynote presentation.

Unlike Excel, Pages won't allow you to export your chart as an image. So, if you want to use your graph in another piece of software (Word, for example) then the best way to do this is to take a screenshot of it and insert it in as a PNG file.


You're Finished!

I hope that it has given you a good overview of how to create some awesome-looking charts in Pages and that after reading it, you'll let your imagination run wild! Charts are a really good way of presenting information and remember that this guide is only the beginning -- you can do a lot more besides creating simple bar graphs like we've seen above!

Please let us know what you think of this tutorial in the Comments section, below, and if you need any help or explanation of anything covered, then please ask! I'll try and get back to you as soon as possible.

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