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SmartArt or a Chart?

March 19, 2012

A SmartArt graphic is a visual representation of information and ideas, and a chart is a visual illustration of numeric values or data. Basically, SmartArt graphics are designed for text and charts are designed for numbers.

Use the information below to decide when to use a SmartArt graphic and when to use a chart.

Use a SmartArt graphic if you want to do any of the following: 

  • Create an organization chart.
  • Show hierarchy, such as a decision tree.
  • Illustrate steps or stages in a process or workflow.
  • Show the flow of a process, procedure, or other event.
  • List information.
  • Show cyclical or repetitive information.
  • Show a relationship between parts, such as overlapping concepts.
  • Create a matrix illustration.
  • Show proportional or hierarchical information in a pyramid illustration.
  • Create an illustration quickly by typing or pasting your text and having it automatically positioned and arranged for you.

Use a chart if you want to do any of the following: 

  • Create a bar chart or column chart.
  • Create a line or XY scatter (data point) chart.
  • Create a stock chart, used to graph various stock prices.
  • Create a surface, donut, bubble, or radar chart.
  • Link to live data in a Microsoft Excel workbook.
  • Update your chart automatically when numbers in a Microsoft Excel workbook are updated.
  • Use "what-if" calculations, and you want to be able to change numbers and see the changes automatically and immediately reflected in the chart.
  • Automatically add legends or gridlines that are based on your data.
  • Use chart-specific functionality, such as error bars or data labels.

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