Graphs are great tools to explore and illustrate different aspects of your data. But, as vivid as they can be, it’s rare that a single graph or chart says it all. That’s why Minitab’s Layout Tool is so helpful. With it, you can easily assemble individual graphs into a single display that gives a complete picture of your data. In this short article, you’ll see some of the many ways that you can put graph layouts to use, whether you create them to share your results with others or simply to better understand your data yourself.
One tool, many uses
A graph layout is such a simple concept that you might easily overlook the ways that it can add valuable information to what would otherwise be a number of separate graphs.
Present a collective view
Individual graphs can give insight into different facets of a larger issue, but the Layout Tool allows you to go deeper, highlighting contrasts and underscoring commonalities.
Compare and contrast over time
When you create the same graphs on a regular basis, you may want to compare your results over time. Minitab’s Layout Tool makes it easy to display the graph that you made last week next to the one that you made last quarter, or last year.
Present a unified message
Best of all, you can easily add text and titles to explain the context of your layout and to suggest conclusions for your audience. You can even add blank space to your layout for your comments and annotations.
Easy to use
Minitab’s Layout Tool is simple to use, especially when you compare it with complex image editing software. Its straightforward design allows you to see a mockup of your final layout as you create it. With any Graph window active, choose Editor > Layout Tool. Simply set the number of rows and columns that you want your layout to have, and then use the forward and back arrows to add and remove graphs from each cell. You can access all of the graphs in your current project.
Once you’ve created a layout, you can still edit all of the included graphs. Just double-click an item or select it from the Editor menu and edit it. Your original graphs remain in the project unchanged.
What if you don’t like the way your layout looks? With the layout active, just choose Editor > Layout Tool again and add, remove, or rearrange graphs.
The Layout Tool: A case study
Here’s a common scenario that shows how simple and effective a graph layout can be.
Suppose that you created two graphs that detail changes in production at your metal fabricating facility. Collectively, they show how your team increased production levels without higher percentages of scrap. Rather than trust that your audience makes the connection between the two separate graphs, you combine them in a layout.
You use the Layout Tool to arrange the two graphs on a single page. So that you’ll have room to add explanatory annotation, you add an extra column to the layout.
You click Finish and your layout is done. Now all that’s left is to add text and callouts with Minitab’s annotation tools to clarify the message of your layout.
Putting graph layouts to use
To make an informed decision, you should look at a problem from many perspectives. Graph layouts allow you to do just that by showing all of the graphs that you choose. By presenting related graphs together, you can increase their impact and have greater control over how they’re perceived. So, for your next report or presentation, use graph layouts to present the big picture to your audience.