Move and Align Chart Titles, Labels, Legends with the Arrow Keys

The free Chart Alignment Add-in for Excel allows you to quickly align the objects within a chart. The chart titles, labels, and legends can be moved using the arrow keys on the keyboard or with the alignment buttons in the add-in window.

The free Chart Alignment Add-in for Excel allows you to quickly align the objects within a chart.  The chart titles, labels, and legends can be moved using the arrow keys on the keyboard or with the alignment buttons in the add-in window.


Download the Add-in File

The Problem

When chart objects/elements (titles, labels, legends) are added to a chart they are positioned in a default location.  For example, the chart title is centered over the top of the chart by default.  If you want to put the title in the top left corner of the chart, it can only be moved by left-clicking and holding with the mouse, then dragging and dropping to the desired location.

Cannot move Excel Chart Objects Elements with Arrow Keys

There is no built-in way to move the chart title with the arrow keys, or align it to other positions within the chart (top-left corner for example).   The entire chart can be moved with the arrow keys, but the elements inside the chart cannot.

*Note: Starting in Excel 2013 the chart objects (titles, labels, legends, etc.) are referred to as chart elements, so I will refer to them as elements throughout this article.

The Solution

The Chart Alignment Add-in is a free tool (download below) that allows you to align the chart elements using the arrow keys on the keyboard or alignment buttons on the add-in window.  This makes it very easy to quickly nudge and align the chart objects in your chart to improve the look of the chart from the default settings.

Chart Alignment Add-in Window 1.1

Feature #1: Arrow Keys

The arrow keys on the keyboard can be used to nudge any of the chart elements in any direction.  There is an increment setting that allows you to move the chart element a specific number of points each time an arrow key is pressed.  Any of the chart elements (chart titles, axis titles, data labels, plot area, and legend) can me moved using the arrow keys.

Move Chart Elements Objects with Arrow Keys

Feature #2: Alignment Buttons

The add-in window contains a set of alignment buttons that align the chart elements to the border of the chart when pressed.  For example, if you want to align the chart title to the top left corner of the chart, simply select the chart title then press the top-left arrow button on the add-in window.

Align Chart Titles to Top Left Corner

The margin setting allows you to set the margin to a specific number of points that will offset the chart element from the chart border.  Please see the video for more details.

Why Move the Chart Titles and Labels?

The goal of any chart is to clearly communicate a story about your data.  The reader should be able to understand the message you are trying to convey within a few seconds of looking at the chart.  There is a lot of great information about this topic and I will post some links at the bottom for further reading.

The default settings for Excel charts don't always apply to some of these theories of reducing chart junk and keeping it simple.  This requires you to modify the chart layout, especially the chart elements.  The Chart Alignment add-in helps make this process faster and gives your charts a more standardized and professional look.  For example, every single chart you produce in the future can have a chart title that is offset 5 points from the top-left corner of the chart border.  This will save you time and take out some of the guess work with arranging the elements.


The add-in is compatible with Excel 2007, 2010, and 2013 for Windows.

After you have installed the add-in, the Align Objects button will appear on the right side of the Format tab in the Chart Tools design tab of the ribbon.  This is a contextual tab and will only appear when you have a chart selected.

Chart Alignment Add-in Button

Clicking on the Align Objects button will open the add-in window.  The window contains two main features: Move Objects with Arrow Keys and Alignment Buttons.

Feature #1: Move Objects with Arrow Keys

To move the elements inside the chart with the arrow keys:

  1. Select the element in the chart you want to move (title, data labels, legend, plot area).
  2. On the add-in window press the “Move Selected Object with Arrow Keys” button.  This is a toggle button and you want to press it down to turn on the arrow keys.
    Chart Alignment Arrow Keys Toggle On 1.1
  3. Press any of the arrow keys on the keyboard to move the chart element.

Note: The add-in window must be active for the arrow keys to work.  When you select a different element in the chart, you must then click on the add-in window to activate it, then use the arrow keys.

When all the data labels in a series are selected you can use the arrow keys to move all the labels at the same time.  Please see the video for further details on this.

The Increment amount allows you to set a specific number of points to move the element with the arrow key is pressed.  The greater the number, the more distance the element will move when the arrow key is pressed.  The “Move Selected Object with Arrow Keys” must be toggled off to change the increment.

Feature #2: Alignment Buttons

The alignment buttons move the selected chart element to a specific location along the charts inner border.

To use the alignment buttons:

  1. Select an element inside the chart (title, legend, plot area).
  2. Press one of the alignment buttons to move the selected element to the desired location.Chart Alignment Buttons 1.1

The Margin amount allows you to set an amount to offset the element from the border.

Note: In Excel 2007 the center alignment buttons do not place the element in the exact center of the chart.  This is a limitation of the 2007 VBA object model, and I'm working on an alternate solution.


Please fill out the form below and you will be able to download the add-in file immediately.

Compatible with Excel 2007 and beyond for Windows.  The zip file contains the add-in file (EC_Chart_Alignment.xlam) and installation guide (Installing an Excel Add-in.pdf)

Update Instructions: If you have already installed the add-in and want to install an updated version:

  1. Close Excel.
  2. Open the folder location where you originally placed the add-in file (EC_Chart_Alignment.xlam).
  3. Replace the existing add-in file with the new one.
  4. Open Excel.

Please leave a comment below with any questions, issues, and ideas for improvement.

This add-in will be updated with feature requests.  Please subscribe to the free email newsletter to stay updated.

Update Log

Version 1.1

  • Align Objects button now appears on the Format tab of the PivotChart Tools Design Ribbon and works with PivotCharts.
  • Alignment buttons work when multiple labels are selected.
  • Arrow keys and alignment buttons now work with shapes placed inside the chart.
  • Fixed error: Now works on multiple labels when one or more labels have been deleted from the group.

Additional Resources

30 Chants for Better Excel Charts – Mynda Tracey at MyOnlineTrainingHub shares 30 great tips for creating better charts to help communicate your story effectively.

9 Steps to Simpler Chart Formatting and Charting Dos and Don'ts – Jon Peltier at Peltier Tech is the absolute legend when it comes to Excel charts.  If you have a question about creating a chart, he probably has an article that answers it.

5 simple rules for making awesome column charts – Chandoo at explains how to improve your column charts and has lots of other great articles on chart formatting.

quick tip: left uppermost align title text – This is a great short article from Cole Nussbaumer at Storytelling with Data that explains why your chart titles should be aligned in the top left corner of the chart.  Definitely an inspiration for this add-in.

Also checkout the blogs and writings of Edward Tufte and Stephen Few for some great theory about communicating your data.

Training Course – If you are looking for a full length training course on charts, I highly recommend the dashboard course from My Online Training Hub.  I have taken this course and it really helped me improve my charting skills.  Checkout my video review of the course to learn more about it.

Have you read a great article about charts recently?  Share the link in the comments section below.


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  • Love it. Thanks Jon.

    I could have done with this yesterday while wrangling some uncooperative labels into place.

    Can’t wait to share it with my Dashboard course students.

    • Awesome! I find myself using it quite a bit and it comes in real handy for moving labels.

      Let me know what your students think and if they have any suggestions for improvement.

      Thanks Mynda!

  • Jon,
    Definitely a nice Addin…

    I find myself using PivotCharts quite a bit. Does this work with that flavor of charts?

    • Hi Greg,
      Great question! It does work with PivotCharts, however the add-in needs to be updated to display the “Align Objects” button on the Format tab of the PivotChart Tools design tab. I will update the add-in and let you know when it is available.


  • Looks good. What would be even handier is if you could move multiple things…whether or not they are the same kind of object (e.g. data labels and chart title).
    I note this won’t let you move all data labels belonging to a series at once. It will let you move one data label if you click on it twice (the first click selects all the data labels for the series, the 2nd selects the specific data label you clicked on)

    But if you select a data label by clicking on it once, then the addin will tell you either give a run-time error “Invalid Parameter” or will say “Data Labels cannot be moved with these buttons”, depending on whether “Move selected object with arrow keys” is toggled or not.

    • Jeff –
      The data labels can’t be moved with the “Alignment Buttons”, but these let you position an object in any of the nin positions in the chart (top left, top center, top right, etc.). I guess you wouldn’t want all data labels located in the same position; the program makes you select one at a time, so you can see how silly it looks.
      You can, however, move all data labels in a series as a group using the keyboard arrow keys.

    • @Jon Peltier – Thank you for the explanation!

      @Jeff Weir – Jon’s explanation is correct for the current functionality of the add-in. It sounds like you might be getting an error though. What type of chart are you testing this on? I read your recent article on the customer segmentation chart and know you are doing some advanced charting. So it may be an issue with the chart type. You can also send me your file [email protected]. I would like to get any errors fixed.

      I’m going to release an update to the add-in soon that will include new functionality to move the data labels as a group with the alignment buttons. Mynda had a great suggestion and example where this could be useful, and I will share more details with that release.

      There will also be a feature to extend the arrow key and alignment button functionality to shapes (text boxes, lines, etc.) that reside inside the chart. I will provide more details on that as well. This is a great feature and resolves the issues of placing a shape outside and on top of a chart to retain arrow key functionality.

      For those reading, please subscribe to the email newsletter to be notified of this updated release.

      Thanks again to everyone!

      • Ok, the scenario where I get the errors is when you have a chart with a series with the values of 1,2,3 but only one of the points has a data label, and you have clicked on that data label ONCE (which to Excel means you have selected ALL data labels) and not TWICE (which to Excel means you have selected the individual data label).

        I’m not a fan of the use of toggle button. I initially didn’t realise it was in fact a toggle button, and thought it was just a text box message…which didn’t make sense.

        I would suggest you instead use radio buttons with the options worded as explicitly as possible:
        * Move selected element by this many points using arrow keys:
        Increment (pts) ___
        * Move selected element to edge of chart, less this margin:
        Margin (pts) ___

        • Thanks for the clarification on the error! I appreciate that and will get it fixed in the next release.

          The magic of the arrow keys lies in the toggle button so I am reluctant to change it. All the other controls need to be disabled when the arrow keys are enabled, and the toggle works great for this. However, I agree that the labels might not make sense and the next release will be more descriptive.

          Thanks again, I really appreciate the feedback!

  • “…the labels might not make sense…”

    One of the hardest parts of UI design is making something that’s perfectly clear to yourself also clear to the user.

  • Hi Jon, I remember your pic posted on EC. so nice that I do not have remember your name. Remembering pic is much easier.
    Anyway, a nice add-in, thanks for the update. But, another issue: Excel 2003 allowed me to glue 2 or more charts together using GROUP command. Then I can copy or cut the whole thing that includes all the GROUPED charts to somewhere else. Sadly this function is no long with 2013. What is the way to do it with 2013? Thanks.

    • That feature has never been removed. Select the charts you want to group, right click, choose Group from the pop up menu, choose Group from the selections, and the charts are grouped.

      • Thanks Jon!

        Hi Zengkui, I am glad you remembered my pic. 🙂

        Were you able to group your charts in 2013? Jon is correct. The feature is still available. You can also group the charts using the Group button on the Format tab of the ribbon. The Format tab will appear when a chart or shape is selected, and the Group button will be enabled when two or more charts/shapes are selected.

        To select multiple charts/shapes you must hold down the Ctrl or Shift key while left-clicking on the object.

        Let us know if you have any questions.

      • Thanks Jons, for the clarification. That is nice to reserve that convenient function which I have overlooked obviously. Soo late to see your comment.

  • Fans from China. Everytime I make a graph, I need to adjust all the elements to the left side one by one, and make them alighn, thanks for the tool, u just totally release my hands.

  • Thanks Jon from China.
    I found the article from a chinese website
    and I did try to download the tool and learn it. But I cann’t open it. The Compression software is always informing me that the zip is broken.
    Can you check it out? or send a correct one to my [email protected].

    Thanks a lot.

  • Hi Jon, The add-in looks great. Could be even better if it was able to move groups of data labels to the sides of the bars. May be I just do not know of such a possibility. If you do, please share your knowledge.
    Thank you!

    • Hi Alexandra,
      You can move the entire group of labels for one series. When you click on one label the first time, all the labels in the series should be selected. You can then use the alignment arrows in the add-in window to move all the labels at one time. Please let me know if you have any other questions. Thank you!

  • Happy New Year and Many thanks, Jon.

    The additional function is great, MS should really consider adding them to their native platform.

    I am wondering if it is possible to make your code open-source, so the function can be amended by programmers everywhere. Personally I would love to study your code and make them available on PowerPoint as well.


    • Hey Paul,

      Happy New Year to you as well. Thanks for the comment. I agree it should be a native feature.

      One of my goals for the new year is to allow you more access to the code. I’m planning to make this more of a learning environment so we can all learn from each other. I will definitely keep everyone update through the newsletter when this is available.

      Thanks again Paul!

  • Thanks so much for making this add-in available! The snazzy add-in just saved me HOURS of time moving data labels on charts. Thanks!

  • Hi I was wondering is the an add on like this one for Word or does this one somehow work for word charts as well or does the charts have to be created in Excel?

    • Hi Taylor,
      The add-in only works for Excel at this time. So it would be best if you created the charts in Excel and then copied them into Word. Please let me know if you have any other questions. Thanks!

  • Love it !! Thanks Jon.

    Your add-in Works only in excel, is it really hard to make it work in PowerPoint ?

    I need it too much in PowerPoint.

    • Thanks Tolga,

      It should be easy to make it work in PowerPoint. I don’t have the bandwidth to do it now, but let me know if you or anyone else wants to tackle it.


  • Hi Jon,
    Thank you very much for creating the adds-in’s. It works as you demonstrated but only at one selected single speed, unlike EXCEL 2003 which allows FINE alignment by holding down the Ctrl key at the same time without installing add-in or doing anything else. Of course this can be done by changing the speed, but this brings up an important question: why the new EXCEL has so many features that are probably never needed while loosing some nice features of the old version? This means it consumes more space with fewer useful, traditional features. What is MS’s philosophy of doing so?

    • Thanks for the comment ZKG! I can’t speak for MS on that one, as I do not work for the company. But I agree that it would be nice to have some of these features built in. Most of the add-ins I have developed are an attempt to create functionality that doesn’t exist yet. I’m just glad that Excel is programmable with VBA so we can create these solutions, even though they might not always be as good as the real thing… 🙂

  • Very helpful for single elements, but I seem to be having a specific problem with it. I want to ‘nudge’ a series of labels appearing at the end of horizontal bars (in the ‘outside end’ position) up or down slightly to create more space between them. However, as soon as I select all of the labels and press any direction key, they all jump to the same horizontal position, ignoring their previous position at the outside end of the bars. Therefore any time saved in positioning them vertically is lost again in having to move them back horizontally.

    Another issue (and it may be a common one with add-ins, I’m not sure) is that I can’t seem to undo any change I make.

    • Hi Dave,
      Once you select the data labels, then click on the add-in window again before pressing the arrow keys. The add-in window needs to be activated to pickup the arrow key presses.

      And yes, that is an unfortunate draw back of add-ins. The undo history is lost when you run macros that modify the workbook. Sorry about that. I wish there was something I could do to change that.

      Let me know if you still have any questions. Thanks!

  • Hi
    I would like to embed a chart in a Word 2013 document and, while in there, align certain elements (title etc.). Do you have an add-in for that too?

    • Hi Jim, Sorry I don’t have an add-in that works with Word. A workaround might be to align it in Excel first before importing. I’m sure there are other nuances you face once the chart is in Word though.

  • Hi Jon,

    I can use the arrow keys to change the position of the legend, but i have multiple legend entries within one legend. I can not seem to move an individual legend entry, only all the legend entries within the main legend.
    Is there a way to move the individual legend entry?

    • Great question Jason! You can’t really moved the individual shapes or legend items. I have actually suggested these feature to the Excel team at Microsoft. I think it would be great. You can resize the legend box to get the elements to display horizontally or vertically, but that’s about it.

  • Hi Jon,

    Thanks very much for the add-in.
    I found quite some of us hoping to have this fantastic add-in works in Powerpoint. May I know if it is possible to do so at the moment?


  • Hi Jon,

    Thanks for this useful tool.
    one help,
    How do I select multiple data lables and move them.By default excel selects all or one at time..
    I have column chart in which i need to move only some data lables


    • Great question Murali. I don’t believe it is possible to select multiple data labels without selecting them all. Even in VBA you can only select one point at a time.

      The following line of VBA code will select the 7th point in the series. You could use this code to loop through the points you want to move, changing the index number for the points method each time.


  • Excellent plugin — comes in very handy! Is it compatible with Excel 2016? Thought I would make sure before updating. Thanks!

  • Hi there
    I wanna move the axis label. but there is a error: “The Axis object/element cannot be moved with the arrow keys.”

      • Hi Jon,

        I have a similar problem with Excel 2013. I have a combo chart, one bar graph and one stacked bar graph side-by-side for each year. Years shown on x-axis. I want to shift the x-axis year labels so that they are between the two bars. But I get the error “Axis can not be moved with these buttons”. Any ideas?


        • Hi Peden,
          The add-in is not going to be able to move the axis labels. Those are permanently aligned with the plot area, and can’t be moved individually. You can change the Axis Position property to “On tick marks” or “Between tick marks”. You might want to try adjusting this property to see if it helps. Thanks!

  • Looks absolutely fabulous, Jon. I use Excel for Mac 2011 Version 14.3.9 (131030). Would your download work on my machine? If not, do you know of a similar utility that I could use? Many thanks.

  • Hi Jon,
    I’ve tried using the chart alignment tool with Excel 2016/365 and it is having some compatibility issues. It causes Excel to freeze and restart often and I lose my work and all of my data labels disappear. My IT let me switch back to 2013 so I could use it again to produce my boss’s reports, but I won’t be able to do that for long.

    • Hi Alan,
      I’m sorry to hear you are having issues with the tool in Excel 2016. That sounds frustrating. I’m not sure what the issues with 2016 are. Do you have any specific scenarios where you know what could be causing the issue? Maybe a certain chart type or something? Thanks!

  • Hi Jon

    I’ve installed the add-in according to your instructions, but it’s not showing up. What am I doing wrong? Using Excel 2010 on Windows 7.


      • I installed the add-in, and it’s showing up on my Excel add-ins list. I also added the folder where I saved it to my trusted locations, and it is showing up in the trusted locations list. However, the chart alignment add-in is still not appearing at the top right of my Chart Tools_Format tab. What could be causing this? (I’m using Office Professional 2010 on a Windows 7 system.)

  • Hi Jon,
    Thanks for this add-in (Chart Alignment)
    Would be nice to have the Undo command (as Ctrl+Z)
    Is it possiblensomehow ?
    Best regards,

    • Hi Jack,
      Unfortunately, macros clear the undo stack when a change is made to an object’s properties. In this case the add-in is changing the properties of the chart elements, and most of those changes cannot be undone. This is more a limitation of VBA in Excel.

      Therefore I’d recommend making a backup copy of the file before making any significant changes.

      You can also select the chart and press Ctrl+D to make a duplicate copy of it before making changes. I hope that helps.

  • Hi Jon,

    Can you please make this add-in available to Powerpoint as well. I’ve seen quite a few users requesting for the same. It would be great if you can help with that. Thanks!

  • Hi thanks for this but i have an error during download it says 405 can you please re-upload it to other hosting files or send me an email of this add-inn


  • Hi! I noticed that these tools were written for Windows. Do you have any tools that are compatible with a Mac? Thank you.

  • Hi Jon,

    I’ve upgraded to Office 2016 (365) — is there any plan to make this compatible with the latest version of Excel?

  • Created bar chart to show percentages; however, would also like to add text within each bar to list the numerator/denominator. I created a text box within the bars and added the info; however, the issue is that all the text boxes shift when a new month is added to the chart. Is there a way to “anchor” the text box or is there a better way to display the numerator/denominator? Thank you

  • Hello,
    I am unable to download ‘Chart Alignment Add-in’, when i click on *.zip file it requires me to enter the name and email then click on ‘Download the Add-in’. It subscribes me again sent me email with link of download pages but not the download link of add-in.
    Please have a look.

  • I am not receiving the email. I used two different ones, but never received the document. Is the file still automatically sent out?

  • This is the BEST plugin ever. But, it’s really old. Have you thought about updating it? I’m sure people would pay for this feature!
    Does work in Excel 16.6 (Mac). I only activate it if I need it right

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