If you've built charts in Excel 2003 then you'll appreciate you can use the Chart Wizard to build a great variety of different chart types. But did you know you can also work with charts in other ways.

For example you can build an instant chart by pressing a single key, or you can create an empty chart and add data later. You can also change chart data from within the chart itself. This article looks at these and other interesting chart features. First we'll look at the instant chart.

Suppose you have a small table in an Excel spreadsheet consisting of several row headings column labels and some numbers for data. Click once into any cell within the table, or in any cell one cell outside the table. Now press the F11 key on your keyboard, and hey presto you have an instant chart.

Your chart is on a separate sheet by default. If you want to place the chart in the same sheet as the data, ensure you are still looking at the new chart, then select Chart, Location, click the option "as object in ..." and click OK to finish. Now you have a standard column chart in the same sheet as the original data. Move the chart if necessary so it doesn't cover the original table and click off it to complete. And that's it - an instant chart in the same sheet via the F11 key.

Next we'll look at the empty chart. An empty chart you might be asking? What's the point of that? Well perhaps you want to build a chart, say, at the end of each month, and use different data to update the chart. One way of doing this is to first build an empty chart and then drag different data onto it.

To show this, start with the same data example as before, but this time select any cell away from the data. To build an empty chart, click the chart wizard button, accept the offered default column chart type, click Next three times, and click OK to finish. Because no data is selected, Excel will build a new blank chart, in the same sheet as the data.. Then carefully drag the blank chart away from the data area if necessary, and click off it to complete.

To fill the chart with data we're going to drag the table onto the empty chart. To do this, first select all the table cells including the row and column labels. Then hover over the edge of the highlighted cells until you see the "move" symbol on the cursor ( a small four way cross). Now drag the data onto the empty chart and let go. That's it - the charts builds and the table stays in it's original location. Building chart this way lets you choose the data source after the chart is built.

Did you know you can change table data from within a chart? To do this first build a regular column chart from your example table, ensuring the chart is in the same sheet as the data but slightly away from the table. To change one of the columns of data we need to select a particular column in the chart. So click once on one of the columns, for example a blue one. All the blue columns are selected - you'll see a single grey dot on each blue column. Then click once on one of the individual blue columns, and only that particular column is selected, with small sizing dots round the edge. If you don't end up with only one column selected, click off the chart and start again.

To change the data the column represents, carefully hover over the upper sizing dots and drag the column lower or higher. Notice that the data in the original table changes. Click off the chart to complete.

You can also change the source data from within a chart. To show this, use the same example table as above but this time build a pie chart based on the first two table columns. The first column is the source of the pie labels and the second column is the source of the actual numbers the pie shows.

To change the source data for the pie chart, click once into the chart's white background to select the chart. Now you will see a blue surround and a green surround in the original table. The blue surround is the data and the green surround in the label above the data. Carefully drag either surround one column to the right. Both move, and the pie chart changes to show the next column of data but with the original labels.

You can do lots more working with Excel charts, particularly in the new version Excel 2007. To really get to grips with this consider attending an Excel training course with charting on the agenda. Then you will really be able explore Excel charts.