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How to Make a Bar Graph in Excel

bar chart
Making bar charts in Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets is easy. Aslan Alphan/Getty Images

This guide shows you how to make a bar graph in Excel for Microsoft Office 365 (Excel 2016 and 2019), as well as older Excel versions. A Microsoft Excel bar graph is relatively easy to create, and once you have learned the steps, they can be useful addition to your computer skills repertoire.

What Is a Bar Graph?

A bar graph is a two- or three-dimensional representation of data. Bar graphs — also known as bar charts or column charts — are one of the most common and straightforward ways to visualize data, from the complex to the simple.

It's not unusual to encounter a bar graph, whether at home, in school or at work, and they can be an excellent tool for presentations or personal use (such as budgeting).

In the simplest terms, a column chart or bar graph has an x-axis and a y-axis.

Usually, the x-axis (the horizontal axis) will be where the bars in the graph rise from, while the horizontal y-axis will have values along a certain range. This is called the vertical bar graph (easy to remember by the vertical bars), whereas a horizontal bar chart will have horizontal bars or columns extending from the y-axis.

What Are Different Kinds of Bar Graphs?

Depending on the kind of data you're working with, one or another bar chart type may be preferable. These varieties are possible in Excel charts, where you can make selections in the the column or bar chart menu.

Stacked Bar Chart

This kind of bar chart is good for looking multiple data series, since each bar can be subdivided.

If, for example, you are looking at quarterly earnings, with each quarter being represented by a vertical bar, a stacked bar charts can show the breakdown of different categories of sale in each bar (online versus in-person, etc.)

Clustered Bar Chart

These bar charts show, as the name implies, groupings of bars along the relevant axis. Clustered bar charts allow for the side-by-side comparison of different types of data on the same graph.

For example, if you're trying out a new gardening technique at your nursery, such as lasagna gardening, you could create a clustered bar chart in Excel that compared the yield of different companion planting combinations (trying different combinations to see what companions work best, graphing those in a clustered bar chart).

How to Create an Excel Bar Graph in 8 Steps

Here's how you can create bar charts using Microsoft Excel 2016 [sources: TechontheNet, Microsoft]:

  1. Open Excel. Locate and open the spreadsheet from which you want to make a bar chart.

  2. Select all the data that you want included in the bar chart.

  3. Be sure to include the column and row headers, which will become the labels in the bar chart. If you want different labels, type them in the appropriate header cells .

  4. Click on the Insert tab and then on Insert Column or Bar Chart button in the Charts group. You'll see many options when you select this button, such as 2D columns and 3D columns, as well as 2D and 3D bars. For these purposes, we're selecting 2D columns.

  5. The chart will appear. You'll also see horizontal bars giving the names of your headers at the bottom of your graph.

  6. Next, give your chart a name. Click on the Chart Title section at the top of the graph and the section becomes editable.

  7. Decide where to place the bar chart. It can be placed on a separate sheet or it can be embedded in the spreadsheet. Then save it.

  8. If you want to delete the chart and start all over again, place your cursor on the edge of the chart (you'll get a pop-up that says "chart area") and press your Delete key.

For earlier versions of Excel, such as 2007 and 2003, follow the instructions below [source: Excel Bar Graphs]:

  1. Open Excel. Locate and open the spreadsheet from which you want to make a bar chart.

  2. Select all the data that you want included in the bar chart. Include the column and row headers, which will become the labels in the bar chart. If you want different labels, type them in the appropriate header cells .

  3. Click the Chart Wizard toolbar button, or choose Chart from the Insert menu.

  4. Make sure that Column is selected under Chart type (it's the default setting).

  5. Select a subtype of bar graph from the display on the right, and click Next.

  6. Make sure that the data range is correct and that Column is selected in the DataRange tab. Click Next.

  7. Enter the titles of the chart for the X axis and Y axis. These titles will appear in the appropriate places on the bar graph.

  8. Click the other tabs and make any changes you want. Click Next.

  9. Decide where to place the bar chart. It can be placed on a separate sheet or it can be embedded in the spreadsheet.

  10. Click Finish. You've just made a bar graph in Excel.

  11. Use the Chart toolbar to make any final adjustments on the bar graph. If the toolbar isn't visible, select View. Select the Toolbars menu. Select the Chart toolbar.

Original article: How to Make a Bar Graph in Excel

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