What Is the Difference Between a Graph and a Table?

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Graphs display information using visuals and tables communicate information using exact numbers. They both organize data in different ways, but using one is not necessarily better than using the other.

Tables typically show data in columns and rows. With tables, users can read the data sequentially as they compare individual numbers. Tables allow users to focus on a couple of numbers at a time. These work best for presenting data that uses multiple units of measurement or data that involves exact values. It can be difficult to compare data on tables because they require detailed reading and focus.

On the other hand, graphs show patterns, the ups and downs of data, in visual ways, and they also allow users to compare relationships among patterns. Unlike tables, graphs often present data in unforgettable, appealing ways. Line graphs, bar graphs and circle graphs can be used to present data visually. Line graphs are typically used to display data changes in time. Bar graphs are best used to compare facts. Circle graphs work best when comparing parts of the whole.

All forms of tables and graphs allow users to observe and analyze data. Different types of data, however, need different types of tables and graphs.