How to Create a Bar Chart on Microsoft Excel

Introduction:The histogram is a great tool for comparing various data elements against some type of measure of that data. As an example, as a writer on the web you may want to track your page views and your earnings over time; a histogram showing page views combined with a line graph for the earnings is a great way to present and analyze this data graphically.

Before the advent of the spreadsheet this was done manually on graph paper; the process was time consuming, error prone and static. When creating a bar chart in Excel, the process is quick, error free and dynamic; as the data is updated so is the graph.

Designing a graph on Microsoft Excel is easy. Here are the basic steps to follow using the example above:

1)     Collation of data: The first step is to collate your data; this is simple and involves opening a worksheet, labeling three columns as Month, Page Views and Earnings, and typing in the relevant data in the rows below the headings.

2)     Creating a basic graph: Creating a bar chart in Excel from a data table is simple. Highlight the entire range of the table created in step 1 and insert a column graph (vertical bar chart); this automatically creates a bar chart based on the data. The resulting chart is dynamic; as the data changes, the chart will automatically update.

3)     Formatting the graph: Once the default graph has been created you can amend the format, layout and design to make it more visually appealing. Excel provides separate menus (that appear when clicking on the graph) that allow you to change the type of graph, the layout, the formatting including colors, the font of the text, etc. There are several powerful features available and that help create high quality graphs.

4)     Adding a second vertical axis: As you’ve plotted two elements, that have entirely different scales, you can click on one of the data columns (in this case earnings) and create a secondary vertical axis.

5)     Changing the type of graph: As a bar chart isn’t a good representation of you can click on the earnings bar chart and change the graph type for that element only. This creates a hybrid bar/line chart that is more suitable for the data elements. You can save this as a template for future use.


The whole process of creating a bar chart in Excel takes less than an hour. The resulting graph is professional looking and allows visual analysis of the data. Designing a graph in Excel is intuitive and easy, and the final graph is dynamic so you can continue to add data for future months and have the graph automatically update.

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