Make bar charts in original order of data for improved readability [charting tip]
To make friends in a new town hit the bars – Old saying.
To make sense of a new data-set, make bar charts – New saying.
Bar charts (or column charts if you like your data straight up) are vital in data analysis. They are easy to make. But one problem. By default, a bar chart show the original data in reverse order.
See this example:
Unfortunately, we humans read from top to bottom, not the other way around.
So how to fix the bar chart order?
Simple. Follow below steps:
- Click on vertical axis of the bar chart and press CTRL+1 (or go to format axis from right click menu)
- Check “Show categories in reverse order” in the axis options pane.
- Your bar chart order is now fixed.
Bonus tip #1: Show bar charts in sorted order
You know what is better than original order of data? Bars sorted by how big they are. Just sort the original data set and your bar chart will reflect the change.
Bonus tip #2: Show horizontal axis at bottom
When you “show categories in reverse order”, Excel also moves the horizontal axis to top of the chart. If you want to show it at bottom, you can use below steps:
- Go to vertical axis settings (select vertical axis and press CTRL+1)
- Set Horizontal axis crosses setting to At maximum category (by default this would be automatic). See this screenshot.
So there you go. Bar charts that make sense.
Making awesome bar charts
If you dig bar charts, you are going to love below tutorials:
- Bar charts with lower & upper boundaries
- Thermometer chart with last year marker to show budget vs. actual values
- Keep calm & make column charts
- Rules for making awesome column & bar charts – podcasts
and one more joke…
I know we started the post with a joke. But I can’t resist one more. A default bar chart walks in the bar. The bartender says, “why are you upside down?”.
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