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A chart is a graphical representation of data, in which "the data is represented by symbols, such as bars in a bar chart, lines in a line chart, or slices in a pie chart". A chart can represent tabular numeric data, functions or some kinds of qualitative structure and provides different info.
The term "chart" as a graphical representation of data has multiple meanings:
Charts are often used to ease understanding of large quantities of data and the relationships between parts of the data. Charts can usually be read more quickly than the raw data. They are used in a wide variety of fields, and can be created by hand (often on graph paper) or by computer using a charting application. Certain types of charts are more useful for presenting a given data set than others. For example, data that presents percentages in different groups (such as "satisfied, not satisfied, unsure") are often displayed in a pie chart, but may be more easily understood when presented in a horizontal bar chart. On the other hand, data that represents numbers that change over a period of time (such as "annual revenue from 1990 to 2000") might be best shown as a line chart.
A chart can take a large variety of forms, however there are common features that provide the chart with its ability to extract meaning from data.
Typically the data in a chart is represented graphically, since humans are generally able to infer meaning from pictures quicker than from text. Text is generally used only to annotate the data.
One of the most important uses of text in a graph is the title. A graph's title usually appears above the main graphic and provides a succinct description of what the data in the graph refers to.
Dimensions in the data are often displayed on axes. If a horizontal and a vertical axis are used, they are usually referred to as the x-axis and y-axis respectively. Each axis will have a scale, denoted by periodic graduations and usually accompanied by numerical or categorical indications. Each axis will typically also have a label displayed outside or beside it, briefly describing the dimension represented. If the scale is numerical, the label will often be suffixed with the unit of that scale in parentheses. For example, "Distance traveled (m)" is a typical x-axis label and would mean that the distance traveled, in units of meters, is related to the horizontal position of the data within the chart.
Within the graph a grid of lines may appear to aid in the visual alignment of data. The grid can be enhanced by visually emphasizing the lines at regular or significant graduations. The emphasized lines are then called major grid lines and the remainder are minor grid lines.
The data of a chart can appear in all manner of formats, and may include individual textual labels describing the datum associated with the indicated position in the chart. The data may appear as dots or shapes, connected or unconnected, and in any combination of colors and patterns. Inferences or points of interest can be overlaid directly on the graph to further aid information extraction.
When the data appearing in a chart contains multiple variables, the chart may include a legend (also known as a key). A legend contains a list of the variables appearing in the chart and an example of their appearance. This information allows the data from each variable to be identified in the chart.
Four of the most common charts are:
This gallery shows:
Other common charts are:
Examples of less common charts are:
This gallery shows:
Some types of charts have specific uses in a certain field
This gallery shows:
Some of the better-known named charts are:
Some specific charts have become well known by effectively explaining a phenomenon or idea.
There are dozens of other types of charts. Here are some of them:
One more example: Bernal chart
While charts can be drawn by hand, computer software is often used to automatically produce a chart based on entered data. For examples of commonly used software tools, see List of charting software.