I'm trying to get text in an extra column to be automatically added as special labels to data points in a graph in Excel 2013 Standard ed. Here's a repro of my scenario:

  1. Create a new Excel sheet with this data:

    Sprint    Backlog (story points)    Velocity (story points)    Comment
    -------   -----------------------   ------------------------   --------
    1         167                       38
    2         129                       21
    3         108                       27
    4         81                        22
    5         53                        29                         John joined team!
    6         31                        19
  2. Create a graph for a combination, with Backlog as a Line and Velocity as a Grouped Bar with a Secondary axis. This should give something like this:

    example burndown chart

At this point, I'm not sure what I can do or should've done to make the Comment column automatigically appear as data labels for one of the series.

I've searched and found the basic docs for adding data labels, but that's not what I want. I've also found a more in-depth explanation which led to my current workaround:

  1. Click a series (e.g. the bar chart);
  2. Click once on one of the bars;
  3. Right click and add a data label;
  4. Click the data label (and optionally move it a bit);
  5. Click inside the text area for the label;
  6. Delete the number of inside it;
  7. Right-click theinside the area;
  8. Click "Insert data label" and pick "Choose Cell"; 9; Pick the cell with the comment;

Now this does keep the cell's content and data label in synch, but it does not make sure new comments in column Comment will show up automatically. See this, where I've added another comment:

burndown with added label

Is it possible to do what I want? Is there some option in Excel to get data-labels from a specific column (and not show them if the cell in that column is empty)?

  • 1
    If you are open to using macros, you could record what you do in steps 1-8 and use the result to create a sub looping over all the datapoints in the series, adding a label if cells in column D <> ""
    – eirikdaude
    Mar 9, 2016 at 8:35
  • 1
    @eirikdaude I'd prefer a proper Excel feature over a custom macro, but I'd also prefer a macro over nothing at all :-)
    – Jeroen
    Mar 9, 2016 at 8:52

2 Answers 2


The answer by @dav was great and led to my own slightly different solution. Although I appreciate that someone's made a plugin to (probably) make this task as easy as possible, I preferred doing this without help of a plugin. I also would prefer (for now) doing this without using a "Table".

The other answer did have the key idea though (and credit where credit's due!), which is to create a seperate series for the labels with #N/A values where appropriate.

Here were my steps to fix this, starting from where the question leaves off:

  1. Create a new CommentLabel column with formula =IF(ISBLANK(D2), NA(), C2)
  2. Add the new column as data (right click graph => select data => add the range in column E)
  3. Right click the series in the graph to change the type to "Spread" on the Secondary axis, see img:

    choosing spread in excel

    You can barely see it, but there's grey dots there representing the data points.

  4. Click the series to select it

  5. Right click it and choose Add Data Labels
  6. Right click the data labels and choose Format Data Labels
  7. It'll show options for formatting the data labels on the right hand side, pick the top option for Values from Cells;
  8. A poppup shows to select the range, pick D2 thruogh D8, i.e. the column with comment texts;
  9. On the right-hand pane, de-select "Y Value" for the label options;
  10. Optionally move labels around.

Congratulations, if you add comments later they will now appear in the graph automatigically! See:

final result

  • 2
    Thanks for this. I've been trying to do this for ages. Note that I think if you do use a "table" all you really have to do is steps 4-10. There's no need for the extra series. At least that worked for me.
    – ZweiBlumen
    Dec 1, 2016 at 5:59

Excel can't quite do this natively, but there is a fairly simple work-around, using Rob Bovey's awesome XY Chart Labeler.

  1. Convert your data to a standard Excel Table, Insert > Table. This formats your data in a way that allows Excel to understand and use it better-including automatically updating your chart as you add table rows.

  2. Add an additional column that creates your "label points". I used the formula =IF(ISBLANK([@comment]),NA(),[@velocity]) to look for a comment and add a point if one is there, otherwise it inserts a #N/A which Excel charts ignore.

  3. Use the XY Chart Labeler add-in as you add comments to update the chart with comments for the points that have them.

  4. And, format to taste.

Custom Labels

  • Thanks a bunch for your answer, it was very helpful. I got it to work without help of Tables and a plugin though, which I prefer, but your answer had the key idea.
    – Jeroen
    Mar 10, 2016 at 7:05

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