What is a bar graph? 

A bar graph is a helpful visual representation of showing frequencies for numbers or specific categories, such as the amount of inventory for various items and sales data.

How do I build a bar graph?

  1. Open the Microsoft (MS) Excel program on your Windows computer and open a blank workbook.
  2. Enter the data you would like to convert into a bar graph in the spreadsheet. Apply headings for every column, enter data in rows, and label each column and row accordingly.
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  1. Once all of your data is in, create your graph by highlighting all of the entries using your cursor, including all data, rows, and column names.
  2. At the top of the navigation window, click the “Insert” tab.
  1. Clicking “Insert” will reveal a drop-down menu with recommended chart elements, along with small icons depicting line, bar, scatter, and different types of graphs.
  2. Select the Bar Chart icon
  1. The Bar Chart icon will pull up different bar chart styles, including 2D column, 3D column, 2D bars, and 3D bar styles. Click on “More Column Charts” if you wish to see more examples.
  1. Once you find the bar graph style your wish to use, click on the icon.
  2. The bar graph will automatically appear in the worksheet, superimposed, or floating on top of your existing data. Feel free to click and drag it elsewhere to make it easier to see the data table and bar graph separately.

A note on Excel formats 

In Excel, you can identify columns using a letter system. In a traditional data chart, column A holds the character name, and column B carries all numbers. Rows are horizontal entries that start from 1 to 9,999. Note, this formatting is as essential to learn as multiple IF statements in Excel, which you can learn more about on Udemy.

What other types of graphs can I create using “Insert Chart?”

There are many kinds of graphs and charts in Excel. Here are some of the popular chart options.

Pie/doughnut: Pie charts can help show how different categories make up a whole, with all data adding up to 100%. For example, you could survey a team of employees about working conditions and make a pie graph based on the results. If employees have to grade their work experience using an “Excellent,” “Good,” “Fair,” or “Poor,” it is easy to tell percentage distribution using pie charts.

Pie charts work best when you want to emphasize super large or super small values.

Note, pie charts are not very useful for all comparisons. If your numbers are close together (e.g., 32%, 34%, and 37%), it is harder to tell which values are bigger. Go with column charts in this case, as it’s easier to read similar values.

To create a pie chart, select the ‘Insert’ tab, find the “Pie Chart” option, and choose the pie chart style.

Scatter chart: This chart allows you to show the relationship between different values. One dot can represent both measurements for a single instance to compare any two numbers.

For example, popular scatter chart options can include city size (square miles) relative to its population, the amount of time studied versus students’ grades, or scoring average relative to practice time for an intramural team.

Scatter charts work best when you want to compare two data points.

To create a scatter chart, select the “Insert” tab, find the “Scatter Chart” option, and choose the scatter chart style.

Column/bar chart: Like a clustered bar, column charts are great for comparing values across several categories.

For example, some bar charts allow you to view data side to side. Stacked column charts combine all series into a taller column for each category instead of showing comparisons side by side.

Column charts work best when you want to compare data across multiple categories.

To create a column chart, select the “Insert”’ tab, find the “Column Chart” option, and choose the column chart style.

Radar chart: Radar charts compare the values of three or more variables in relation to a center point. Also referred to as spider charts, this chart type uses one axis per category, with each category using the same scale.

A two-way comparison between a classification and a series also used this stacked column style. 

To create a radar chart, select the”’Insert” tab, find the “Radar R Chart” option, and choose the radar chart style.

Combo chart: A combo chart combines multiple graphs into one chart. They may consist of a mix of column charts and line graphs to better compare multiple datasets.

Specifically, it allows you to have two different kinds of data that could be displayed together, which is useful for numbers in data that vary widely from data series to data series. For example, for a traditional sales combo chart, a chart could have two y-axes, with the left showing revenue and the right showing a number of units sold, with a separate bar graph depicting regional activity.

To create a combo chart, select the “Insert” tab, find the “Combo Chart” option, and choose the combo chart style.

Area chart: A stacked area chart allows you to see patterns and patterns with data over time. You could define this period as days, months, or years.

These types of charts work best when there is a chronological event with a desire to view performance changes over time, as is popular with revenue-based data. It can do a great job of showing how each value contributes to a total over time.

To create an area chart, select the “Insert” tab, find the “Area Chart’” option, and choose the area chart style.

Map chart: A map chart is an excellent choice to compare values across geographic regions. If you want to compare zip codes, states, countries, or larger regions, this is a great tool. 

Line chart: Line charts are one of the most popular graphing types available in Excel. It shows trends on how values change over time using an evenly scaled axis. 

Line charts use category data in its horizontal axis and value data with its vertical axis. Depicting daily and monthly revenue for a small business or a city/region’s daily low and high temperatures are two great examples where you can use line charts.

To create a line chart, select the “Insert” tab, find the “Line Chart” option, and choose the combo chart style.

Line charts use the following subtypes: 2D line charts (line, 100% stacked line, line with markers, stacked line with markers, and 100% stacked line with markers) and 3D line charts. 3D line charts use a 3D ribbon to show each row or column of data, which works great for showing trends over a period of time (expressed in days, months, years, or similar) or categories. 

Pivot chart: Pivot charts are one of the more complex graphing options in Excel. They are based on pivot tables, which allow you to analyze complex data in an easy-to-understand way. It is one of the best ways to summarize data.

To create a pivot chart, select the “Insert” tab, find the “Pivot Chart” option, and choose the pivot chart style.

Bubble chart: Bubble charts work similarly to scatter charts. With bubble charts, data is replaced with bubbles. The larger the data point, the larger the bubbles. Note, unlike scatter charts, bubble charts do not use the category axis. In this case, the value axes are both horizontal and vertical axes.

Two commonly applied scenarios for bubble charts compare classified data and perform correlation analysis. 

Stock charts: Stock charts are an excellent way to show fluctuations in stock prices. You can also use them to show fluctuations with other types of comparative data, such as daily temperatures in a particular region, weight, machine output, or the amount of daily snowfall. 

Surface chart: Surface charts are an excellent way to depict optimum combinations between two sets of data. They work similar to a topographic map, in that the same range of values can be depicted by certain colors and patterns. 

There are four different subtypes with surface charts: 3D surface, wireframe 3D surface, contour, and wireframe contour.

Gauge charts: Also referred to as dial or speedometer charts, a gauge chart uses a scale, a pointer, and a pointer angle. The scale refers to the metric, the point refers to the dimension, and the point angle refers to the value. It’s a way to tell a comparison between intervals. 

Frame diagram: Frame diagrams have a tree-like structure that depicts a hierarchy. Each “branch” of the tree refers to a hierarchical relationship. We mainly use frame diagrams to depict a hierarchy display and process display.

Funnel charts: Funnel charts are an excellent way to show proportion for each stage, such as a ranking system. By arranging multiple funnel charts horizontally, it is a great method of comparison with easily depicted data contrasts. This type of chart works well with data ranking and standard value comparisons. 

Chart elements, chart styles, and chart filters

On the upper-right corner of your charts, you have the option to add chart elements. These chart elements include data labels, axis titles, or a custom design. You may also change the chart data. For even more design and formatting options, click anywhere within the chart and navigate to “Chart Tools,” where you can refine further using the “Design” and “Format” tabs. Consider elements, styles, and filters one of the most important advanced Excel skills for professionals.

How do I modify how my bar graphs and charts look?

It is very easy to change how data appears onscreen with various formatting options and chart styles. For this, you will need to refer to your worksheet’s Color and Style galleries.

How to change your chart’s color

To change the COLOR of a chart, click on the chart you wish to change, select “Chart Styles,” click “Color,” and select the color scheme you like. Note, formatting options and chart layouts use theme colors. Switch between different theme colors by clicking “Page Layout” and click “Colors” for several color scheme options. You also can create your own theme colors.

How to change your chart’s style

To change the style of a chart, click on the chart you wish to change, select “Chart Styles,” click “Style,” and select the style you like. Styles come in all types of ways, some are more traditional, and others use quirky color combinations to bring your spreadsheet to life.

Scroll on any of the style options in the gallery and hover the mouse over any style to display a live preview of how your chart data will look like.

Do not forget to click on the chart to change your chart’s title. You can do this regardless of chart type.

Cell data bars

Cell data bars make it very easy to visualize values in a range of cells. The longer the bar, the higher the value. 

It is very easy to incorporate data bars into your Excel worksheet.

  1. Select a range.
  2. Navigate to the “Home” tab, go to “Styles,” and click on “Conditional Formatting.”
  3. Click “Data Bars” and select a subtype.
  4. Watch Excel update the data bars automatically, with the cell holding the minimum value having no bar and the cell with the highest value containing a data bar that shades in the entire cell. All other cells within the range are sized proportionally. 

Outside of data bars, there are other ways to show a comparison between values, such as color scales and icon sets. 

Recommended chart feature

The “recommended chart” feature is very useful if you are unsure which chart would best depict your data. 

Creating a chart using Recommended Charts only takes a few steps.

  1. Select the date range
  2. Navigate to “Insert” and click on “Recommended Charts.”
  3. The “Recommended Charts” window will open, showing a list of charts Excel recommends. Click on any of the charts to get a quick preview of how your data will look.
  4. Click “OK” on the chart you want to use.
  5. Your data will automatically populate using the new chart. 

If you do not agree with any of the Recommended Charts, a second tab, “All Charts,” includes all available chart types for you to choose from.

Page Last Updated: May 2021

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