Fixing Broken Graphs and Charts in PowerPoint & Word

How to convert a PPT or Word Graph or Chart with Linked Data to Embedded Data and How to Fix Broken Links to Data

Steve Sheets, Technical Director

Steve Sheets

Jul 28, 2022

Sometimes people mean to or think they have embedded the source data along with their chart into a Word doc or PowerPoint presentation even when they have not. 

A typical step after placing their chart/graph is to style it to match the document and continue working thinking everything is good. Later down the road, someone else on the team goes to edit the data and discovers that the link to the data is broken. Converting a chart from having linked data to embedded data can be done and it saves your from having to re-styling a new chart, so let’s see how to fix it here.

If the link is currently broken AND you have access to the document it came from, step one is reconnecting the chart to the missing data.

This can be done by opening the document on the computer that linked it to begin with (as long as the .xls file has not moved the linked data should connect without issue). OR if you know where the .xls file lives you can fix the link by going to the file tab on Word or PowerPoint and going down a little bit to click on "Info". Then near the bottom right there will be an "Edit Links to Files" button where you can reconnect broken links.

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Once the data is linked you may wish to follow the steps below to remove the link and instead work with the data embedded in your Word or PowerPoint file.

(If no one on your team has access to the missing data we'll address some options further down in the post.) 

When links to data are working, you can convert the chart from linked data to embedded data by copying or cutting it from the presentation and paste it back in. Immediately after pasting the chart, there will be a little clip board icon with a dropdown menu at the bottom right of the chart. From that dropdown menu select an option that includes "Embed Workbook." This will change it from having linked data to embedded data.

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If “Keep Source Formatting and Embed Workbook" is not an option in that paste menu, your link to the data is currently broken.

I would recommend retrying some previous steps before moving on or seeing the following step for how to proceed if you do not have access to the source document for the data.

If the document with the source data is not available, you do have to rebuild the chart. Building a chart without data sounds impossible but fortunately there is a way to see the data you need.

Selecting the chart will show the "Chart Design" tab along the top of your workspace. Near the left edge of the Chart Design Tab there is the "Quick Layout" dropdown menu. From these layouts, one of them has a Data Table shown under the graph. Activating this layout will show you the data you need to recreate the graph.

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Once work is completed, you can check to make sure that you don't have any linked data and that all your workbooks are embedded by going back to the file tab, clicking info and checking that there is no longer a button there to edit links.

To prevent this issue in the future, when pasting charts from Excel, use the paste options menu at the bottom right of the pasted graph to select an option which includes “embed workbook” and your source data will be instantly embedded.

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About The Author

Steve Sheets, Technical Director

Steve is a designer with high expectations for a final product but he tends to obsess over process too. He likes to know the many ways to get things done, the advantages of each and their oh so scary pitfalls. Perhaps that's why he has a Mac and a PC?

"Workflows are one of the few times in life where the best way tends to be the easy way, the trick is figuring out what's 'easy' for your specific situation."

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