Creating in-cell bar charts / histograms in excel

Posted on May 13th, 2008 in Charts and Graphs , hacks , ideas , Learn Excel , technology - 52 comments

Create incell bar graphs / histograms in excel

Ever since writing the create in-cell pie charts in excel, I have been itching to find a simple enough method to do incell bar graphs. An in-cell bar would probably be more useful and cuter than an in-cell pie as it can instantly provide trending details. What more, these would probably look gorgeous when printed out.

My first challenge was that there was no font readily available for bar graphs. Thankfully this is when I noticed Font Struct, an online font creator / editor. I quickly created a bar graph font using their wonderful editor. When you use bargraph font, 0 through 9 will show bars of increasing heights, as shown below.

bargraph font histogram

You should download bargraph font if you want to use incell bar graphing technique mentioned here.

Once you have downloaded the font, the rest is simple process. For this example, lets use fictitious sales data of various beverages over the last 12 months. The initial data table is something like this:

  1. First we will insert a column next to the total sales column and call it “last 12 months”. We will use this column to fill up the in-cell bar graph for the last 12 month sales.
  2. Next we need to normalize the sales values for each month to a value between 0 to 9. I have used linear normalization, ie the maximum value across the 12 months would be 9 and everything else will be normalized according this. The formula for one month looked something like this: =ROUND(jan_sales/MAX(all_sales)*9,0). Remember, we need to round the data make it one digit instead of a decimal.
  3. Once we have normalized values for each of 12 sales figures for each row, we just need to concatenate them to create a 12 character long string of numbers and place this values in our newly inserted column
  4. Finally, we will change the font of this column to “bargraph” (just select all the cells under the “last 12 months” and change the font)

    When we are finally done, our table should look something like this:
    in-cell bar graphs in microsoft excel

  5. Thats all, we now have a charming data table with cute little incell bar graphs to insert your project report / sales memo or news letter.

Feel free to download example excel sheet I have created and learn how to do in-cell bar graphs


Remember, you need to have the bargraph font installed first.

Do you like this? share your feedback.

Your email address is safe with us. Our policies

Written by Chandoo
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
Home: Chandoo.org Main Page
? Doubt: Ask an Excel Question

52 Responses to “Creating in-cell bar charts / histograms in excel”

  1. Hypnos says:

    Ay jhakkas!!!

    Man, you’re on a roll. A true-blue Excel innovator. What you’re writing makes me think – why didn’t anyone else think of this before?

    Now that I’ve showered all the praises on you, it won’t hurt to have a few comments on my blaag ;)

    PS. I meant the innovator part.

  2. Chandoo says:

    @Amit … thanks, I was also curious why this one was not explored, but again, I havent really searched a lot to ensure that I am posting the same ideas again. My intent is to make few people to benefit from this, if that happens I would be happy…

    btw, posted a comment on your blaag… hope you are happy now :D

  3. Hypnos says:

    Don’t worry about repeating the ideas in the online world. As long as you are not copying it off anyone else and it is helpful for the readers, it’s fine.

    PS. the comment does not count.

  4. The idea actually is not a new one :).

    Check out MicroCharts
    http://www.bonavistasystems.com/
    to see how far you can get with font based in-cell charting

  5. […] can never get tired of in-cell charts, whenever I get sometime, I try to experiment something on them. Here is an idea to design true […]

  6. […] Since we can insert any character in to a cell using formula, by installing a custom bar chart / pie font in our computer we can create incell graphs in excel with ease. Click here to see example pie chart, line chart. […]

  7. Mrayo84 says:

    Where is the file? I can’t seem to locate it. I want to donwload it. Thanks Chandoo!

  8. Mrayo84 says:

    Found it.

  9. mahqooi says:

    Great job, Chandoo. Love the site – and the fact that you provide downloads to help us (me) learn your secrets faster. I downloaded the font but can’t figure out how to add it to my font library… Any hints? Thanks! Keep up the fantastic work.

  10. Chandoo says:

    @Mahqooi: Thank you and welcome to PHD :)

    This is how you can install a font in a windows machine:
    unzip the font files (if needed)
    select and copy the font file to clip board by pressing ctrl+c
    go to control panel > fonts
    paste the file by pressing ctrl +v
    repeat this procedure for other font files if any

    if you are using mac, just right click on the font file and select install option.

    let me know if you have some issues with this.

  11. cybpsych says:

    Hi Chandoo,

    is there any mirrors for the bargraph font?

    it seems that fontstruct.com is down for maintenance.

    thanks!

    • Chandoo says:

      @Cybsych: I am not sure if they have any mirrors. I will look in to my backup to see if a copy of the font can be located and ping you back. Thanks.

  12. cybpsych says:

    hi Chandoo, fontstruct is back online ;)

    BTW, I am wondering about this in-cell chart.

    How do I apply an automated conditional formatting to only a bar/point?

    For example, the first image in this post, whereby RED = highest, BLUE=lowest.

  13. Pedro says:

    Chandoo,
    I guess this bars only work with positive numbers? so if you a list of costs per month, but one month you have negative cost meaning income due to let’s say vendor credits. This incell bar could despict the month with a negative digit. or could it?

  14. cybpsych says:

    hi Chandoo, guess that you missed out my query :D

    is there a way to highlight the MAX and MIN bar based on the actual data (not the normalized)?

  15. Chandoo says:

    @Pedro, for that you need to have another set of characters (may be A-J for 0-9 and K-S for -1 to -9 and then use them to show the bars. It is a bit tricky, but achievable.

    @Cybpsych: The highlighting was done manually (As you can see, there is probably no easy way to highlight / change colors of a portion of cell using Conditional formatting etc.). I am sorry, but you need to use someother sparkline technique to achieve this (or, write your own macro)
    http://chandoo.org/wp/2008/09/05/microcharting-excel-howto/

  16. cybpsych says:

    thanks chandoo!

  17. Jason says:

    I love this simple and quick way of visualization results. I would like to learn more about normalizing values (i.e. the use of linear normalization). Can someone kindly point me in a good direction for this beginner? Much thanks to everyone (especially Chandoo) for the wealth of information provided. Long live the internet age!

    • Chandoo says:

      @Jason: you can use simple excel formulas to normalize a set of values. If the list of values is in say a1: a10 and you want them to be normalized from 1 to 100, you can do that with a formula like: =A1/max($A$1:$A$10) * 100. Also, you can use the RANK formula to calculate the percentile of any value in the list.

  18. Matt A. says:

    Nifty way to normalize the data….I’ll have to take that into account when working with my charts.

    One thing I’d like to add, you can eliminate the need for custom fonts with the bar charts by using a REPT function and using a small “g” set to the Webdings font. It’s more likely anybody opening the file will have access to that font than the custom one you’ve provided. (More portability is a good thing :) )

  19. Pedro says:

    Portability is great.
    I don’t quite see how the REPT formula and the webding fonts can combine to solve the portability issue.
    Mind you, i see that +REPT(“g”,1) will give you a bar, but we would need several bars of unequal lenght.

    Can you elaborate?
    Thank you

  20. Chandoo says:

    @Matt: I almost forgot about this comment. Thanks to Pedro for the bump.

    As he points, portability is a good idea, but we will not be able to get bars of variable height using webdings font.

    We can ofcourse use that along with text rotation and char(10) to create a pseudo incell bars. Here is a tutorial: http://chandoo.org/wp/2008/07/15/incell-bar-charts-revisited/

  21. Matt A. says:

    @Chandoo: Yep, that’s exactly what I meant, use your text rotation and char(10) trick with REPT(“G”,) (then set the font to Webdings) to get your string of bars with variable height.

    @Pedro: REPT(“g”,1) will give you one “g” (or in Webdings a bar of 1 height).

    REPT(“g”,B2) will repeat for the value in B2… :) Use that with Chandoo’s take on linear normalizing, and yer all set.

    Wingdings with an “n” character would be even more portable, but just doesn’t look quite as cool…but pretty much everybody has that font, so it’d be portable.

    You may have to adjust the font size in order to get all the bars to show correctly, perhaps some sizing of the row heights as well…

    You can fake an incell line chart by using:
    REPT(” “,B2-1)&REPT(“n”,B2)
    where B2 is the value in the cell you want as a data point.

  22. Matt A. says:

    Wow, the formatting was horrid, let’s elaborate a bit more…

    REPT(“”,-1)&REPT(“n”,) – would give you a line graph, where could be a reference to each cell you’d like as a data point.

    REPT just repeats a text string a number of times, it can be either a hard number (like Pedro’s example), or a reference to a value in another cell (more handy). I believe Webdings is a common font in the MS Office suites I’m familiar with (2000 thru 2003), but I’m not sure of 2007’s suite.

  23. Chandoo says:

    @Matt A: I am sorry for the formatting mishap. I am afraid of using too many plug ins, but I guess a simple HTML based comment box seems like a good idea now that lot more commenters are typing formulas and vba code in the comment box.

    Coming to the formula.. thanks for sharing it. And yes, you are right, webdings is common to Office 2007 too. But even better solution would be to use good old pipe | symbol. When the font is Arial, the pipe character spacing looks optimum and subtle enough to look like an incell histogram / column chart.

  24. Matt A. says:

    After some searching through the character maps in Arial I noticed that there’s a box symbol –> ? (created by holding ALT then typing 5595 on the numpad) that would work perfectly as another character to use for column charts. It looks just like the Webdings “g” character.

  25. Ben says:

    Is there a way to change the colour of the bars based upon the data. eg. 1-5 = red, 6-7 = amber, 8-10 = Green

  26. Chandoo says:

    @Ben… you can change the color of all bars in a cell using conditional formatting. But selectively changing color of bars inside cell is not possible unless you do it manually or through VBA.

  27. […] Creating in-cell bar charts / histograms in excel @ Pointy Haired Dilbert Filed under: Stuff […]

  28. Vinu says:

    Is this work only for the numbers or will it work for % data also. I tried to do the same for % data, but i didnt get. Pls let me know the formula for % data.

  29. prb says:

    Hello Chandoo,

    I really like this, but I have Office for Mac 2011 and for the life of me I cannot figure out how to see the bargraph as an available font.

    I have followed all the instructions for adding a font, but it does not appear. Do you have any suggestions?

    Thanks

    prb

  30. Ekta says:

    Thanks. This one was cool and helpful. Can we experiment the same with “in cell” line graph as well? :)

  31. Lawrence says:

    Chandoo,

    How do you “manually” change the color of the last bar in the series?

    Lawrence

  32. Hui... says:

    @Lawrence
    Select the chart
    Select the series
    Select the last point/column of the series
    Ctrl 1 or right click Format Point
    Select a color

  33. Lawrence says:

    Hui,

    Thanks!

    I should have been more descriptive. What I meant to ask was about the in-cell bar graph created with the REPT function described above. How do I get the last REPT (the last bar) to be a different color than the rest?

    Lawrence

  34. Hui... says:

    @Lawrence
    You cannot change colors in a cell using formula
    You can use either VBA code or do it manually
    Select the cell
    Copy and paste it as values
    Edit the cell F2
    using the arrows move to the character you want to color
    Shift and select the cell by arrow keying over it
    with the characyer selected
    Ctrl 1 (Format Cells)
    Change the Font Color to suit

  35. Matt A. says:

    It won’t be a color change per se…but you can set an IF statement in your REPT formulas for different characters to show as the bars. The characters “c” and “g” in Webdings are both boxes, one is a solid block, the other an outline.

    For example, say I wanted to highlight the highest bar in my REPT formulas…my formula to translate the numeric cells A2:A15 to characters would be:
    IF(A7=MAX($A$2:$A15),REPT(“c”,B7),REPT(“g”,B7))

    so if the cell I’m checking (here it happened to be A7), is the highest number…its bar would display differently further along down in the concatenations…

  36. Lawrence says:

    @Hui…THANKS!

    @ Matt A… Very cool idea. What formatting do you recommend for the cell? The Webdings “c” hollow box is very faded and hard to read even if bolded and bigger font size is used. If I could just punch it up a bit it would be perfect with 5 “c” columns followed by a single solid “g” column…as in showing the trend in the trailing 6 months of data.

    Lawrence

  37. Matt A. says:

    @ Lawrence

    Good question…lately I’ve been using ? (which you get from holding ALT then typing 5595 on the numeric keypad) for most of my bars. Unfortunately the character map doesn’t lead me to a differently “shaded” box of the same size. Reason I use this nowadays…it’s part of arial font…just a special char map character I can rapidly input w/o any formatting nonsense.

    I’ll check to see if I can replicate another box of same size that may have different shading using the same method…no luck as of yet.

  38. Leepy says:

    I’ve just built the in cell bargraph and was trying to create a pop up window which would display the Monthly Sales for Last 12 months when they click on any of the bargraph cells

  39. […] Reference: http://chandoo.org/wp/2008/05/13/creating-in-cell-bar-charts-histograms-in-excel/ Like this:LikeBe the first to like this. […]

  40. […] To quickly insert an in cell micro-chart, use REPT() function… Get Full Tip […]

  41. captainentropy says:

    Hi, there is a problem with the Bargraph font. On my win7 machine it works perfectly but when I try to install it on my boss’s mac it returns an error called ” ‘Name’ Table Structure”

    I tried to install on two different macs and the same error resulted. As a result the font does not show up as an option in any program.
     
    Just an FYI. I don’t use macs but I know some people do.

  42. Marc Frutos says:

    Whats up! I just wish to give a huge thumbs up for the good info you might have right here on this post. I can be coming back to your weblog for extra soon.

  43. […] like .docx, .htaccess etc.) 43. To quickly insert an in cell micro-chart, use REPT() function… Get Full Tip 44. COUNT() only counts number of cells with numbers in them, if you want to count number of cells […]

  44. Sarah says:

    Thanks Chandoo for the font!! It works great once installed on my machine, but is there any way (besides printing and scanning the doc) that I can get the graphs to show up on other peoples’ machines without going through the font install process? My file has to be sent out to clients that don’t have that font installed.

  45. captainentropy says:

    Sarah, Excel doesn’t allow embedding of fonts (aside from a workaround using a macro). The font will need to be sent to all who want to view the file. I went through the same question with my boss. I ultimately just installed the font on her computer.

    If the data is only to be viewed, and not modified, moved, etc. you can save the file as a pdf. The font can be viewed that way.

  46. joesali says:

    Hello every one there is a problem I need auto update summary formula from other sheets data pick please give me sample file and also auto up grate summary sheet format……………..

  47. nikhi says:

    Hi chandu,
    Apart from excel, i need the formula to find bar graph height dynamically when using with log scale, for example for linear graph i would take the maximum value to height of the panel as
    (value divided by maxvalue) * height.
    Now , i am using a logarithimic graph can you tell me the right formula which fits perfectly.
    Thanks in advance

Leave a Reply