Column Chart vs Bar Chart in Excel (6 Useful Examples)

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This article demonstrates the features of a Column Chart vs Bar Chart in Excel. Without any doubt, Excel charts are an excellent tool. It’s suitable for presenting any data graphically rather than by displaying a complicated table with numerous fields. Here, we will discuss a Column Chart vs Bar Chart in Excel and when to use which one effectively.


What Is a Column Chart and Bar Chart in Excel?

A Chart is a graphic representation of data, where the data is shown as bars, lines, circular shapes, etc. When tabular data is insufficient to show meaningful correlations or patterns between data points, we use a chart to present the data and further explore a subject. Column Charts and Bar Charts are the two charts most frequently used to track changes over time between various groups.

  • A Bar Chart employs horizontal bars to depict data which are used to compare values across categories. The bars’ lengths are positively associated with the values they stand for.
  • Column Chart uses vertical bars to represent data. Column charts can be used to demonstrate change over time and to compare numbers across categories.

How to Make a Column Chart in Excel

Suppose, we have a Mark List of Maths of some students including their Names and Scores.

Column Chart vs Bar Chart in Excel

We’ll plot a Column Chart from this dataset. Follow the steps below.

Steps:

  • First, select the whole dataset including the headers which means in the B4:C14 range.
  • Then, go to the Insert tab.
  • Now, select Insert Column or Bar Chart > 2-D Clustered Column.

Column Chart vs Bar Chart in Excel Making a Column Chart

  • At this point, our Column Chart looks like the one below.

Column Chart vs Bar Chart in Excel Making a Column Chart

In the image above, all the columns are in the same colors. We can make it more suitable by giving different colors to each column.

  • Firstly, right-click on any column.
  • Then, select Format Data Series from the menu.

Column Chart vs Bar Chart in Excel Making a Column Chart

  • Eventually, this will open up the Format Data Series task pane.
  • Then, click on the Fill & Line icon.
  • After that, expand the Fill menu.
  • Now, check the box of Vary colors by point.

Column Chart vs Bar Chart in Excel Making a Column Chart

At this moment, our Column Chart looks like the one below.

Column Chart vs Bar Chart in Excel Making a Column Chart

This looks more captivating than before.


How to Make a Bar Chart in Excel

From the same dataset that we used in our previous section, we’ll make a Bar Chart. Follow us carefully.

Steps:

  • Firstly, select cells in the B4:C14 range covering the whole dataset.
  • Then, go to the Insert tab.
  • Now, select Insert Column or Bar Chart > 2-D Clustered Bar.

Column Chart vs Bar Chart in Excel Making a Bar Chart

Therefore, a Bar Chart opens through our previous action.

Column Chart vs Bar Chart in Excel Making a Bar Chart

We changed the default blue color of the bar to differentiate it from our previous Column Chart.


Basic Difference Between Column and Bar Chart in Excel

Both the Bar and Column charts use rectangular bars to display data, with the length of the bar being proportional to the data value. Both charts compare two or more values. However, their orientation is what makes them different. The sole distinction is that the Column Chart is displayed vertically (with values on the y-axis and categories on the x-axis), whilst the Bar Chart is presented horizontally (with values on the x-axis and categories on the y-axis).


Column Chart:

Column Chart vs Bar Chart in Excel


Bar Chart:

Column Chart vs Bar Chart in Excel Making a Bar Chart


There are some instances of data representation where these charts outperform one another in terms of functionality. This happens due to the differences in how they are represented. We are giving examples below where sometimes a Column Chart communicates the message better and sometimes a Bar Chart works better.


Example 1: Column Chart Is Suitable to Compare Between Sets of Variables

Let’s say, we have a dataset of Sales Rep-wise Quarterly Sales.

Column Chart vs Bar Chart in Excel Comparing Between Sets of Variables

Here, columns B, C, D, E, and F represent the Quarters, and the sales amount of James, Jones, Frank, and Thomas respectively. Now, we’ll create a Column Chart from this dataset.

Steps:

  • Firstly, select cells in the range B4:F8.
  • Then, go to the Insert tab.
  • Now, select Insert Column or Bar Chart > 2-D Clustered Column.

Column Chart vs Bar Chart in Excel Comparing Between Sets of Variables

Therefore, it opens a Column Chart like the one below.

Column Chart vs Bar Chart in Excel Comparing Between Sets of Variables

In the chart above, we can see that the Quarterly sales of James are together. But, we want to compare the sales among all sales reps in each quarter.

  • First, right-click anywhere on the graph.
  • Then, select Select Data from the menu.

Column Chart vs Bar Chart in Excel Comparing Between Sets of Variables

  • However, a Select Data Source wizard will open up.
  • Then, select Switch Row/Column.
  • Now, click on OK.

Column Chart vs Bar Chart in Excel Comparing Between Sets of Variables

Now, our Column Chart compares the sales of all sales reps in each quarter.

Column Chart vs Bar Chart in Excel Comparing Between Sets of Variables


Example 2: Column Charts Are Convenient to Represent Data Sets with Negative Values

Here, we have a dataset for the Observation of Daily Temperatures including the Days and their Temperatures in degrees Celsius consecutively.

Column Chart vs Bar Chart in Excel Representing Datasets with Negative Values

In this dataset above, temperatures of some days have gone to negative values.

  • At first, insert a Column chart following the steps in Example 1.

Column Chart vs Bar Chart in Excel Representing Datasets with Negative Values

To make the minus value understandable easily, we’ll add a different color to these columns.

  • Now, right-click on any column in the chart.
  • Then, select Format Data Series.

Column Chart vs Bar Chart in Excel Representing Datasets with Negative Values

  • At this moment, the Format Data Series task pane opens.
  • Then, click on the Fill & Line icon.
  • After that, expand the Fill menu.
  • Now, check the box of Inverse if negative.
  • Later, choose a Fill Color according to your preference.

Column Chart vs Bar Chart in Excel Representing Datasets with Negative Values

  • However, our chart is more distinguishable than before.

Column Chart vs Bar Chart in Excel Representing Datasets with Negative Values


Example 3: Column Chart Is Suitable to Display Smallest to Largest Values to Focus on the Largest Values

Here, a Column Chart performs best. The columns are displayed with the smallest on the left and the largest on the right. Additionally, it is simple to focus on the largest value.

For example, we have a mark list of some students sorted from smallest to largest.

Displaying Smallest to Largest Values

The Column Chart for this dataset would look like the one below.

Displaying Smallest to Largest Values

From the image above, the largest value is noticeable without extra effort.


Example 4: Bar Charts Are Preferable to Show Long Data Labels in Category Axis

There isn’t much room in the category axis of a Column Chart. Therefore, the category axis may appear cluttered if your data labels are lengthy. However, employing the Bar Chart will significantly enhance the legibility of your chart.

Also, we have a mark list of some individuals like before.

Showing Long Data Labels on Category Axis

In the image above, we can notice that the text strings of the Names of the individuals are quite long. A Bar Chart is the best option for this kind of situation.

Showing Long Data Labels on Category Axis

Those long data labels on the axis are easily fitted in the chart above.

If we used a Column Chart instead of this, this would look like the one below.

Showing Long Data Labels on Category Axis

Obviously, this doesn’t look cool or comprehensive.

Read More: How to Make a Stacked Bar Chart in Excel


Example 5: Bar Chart Is Handy Enough to Display Largest to Smallest Values to Focus on the Largest Values

In this case, a Bar Chart is ideal. The values are displayed with the largest at the top and the smallest at the bottom. For example, we have a mark list of some students sorted from largest to smallest.

Displaying Largest to Smallest Values

The Bar Chart for this dataset would look like the one below.

Displaying Largest to Smallest Values

Read More: Excel Stacked Bar Chart with Subcategories


Example 6: Bar Chart Is Suitable When the Dataset Is Larger

When the dataset has so many rows of categories, that means the data set is big enough. In that case, using a Bar Chart is more convenient than a Column Chart.

In this place, we have Scores of some random individuals.

Larger Dataset

We can easily understand that this dataset is larger than those we used before. In such a situation, a Bar Chart is the perfect fit.

Larger Dataset

It’s soothing for the eye also.

How it would look like if we used a Column Chart in this position?

Larger Dataset

We can notice that there isn’t enough space available for labels on the axis. If the dataset becomes heavier, it will get messier.


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Conclusion

Thank you for reading this article, we hope this was helpful. Please let us know in the comment section if you have any queries or suggestions.


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Shahriar Abrar Rafid
Shahriar Abrar Rafid

Shahriar Abrar Rafid, BSc, Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering, Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, Bangladesh, has worked with the ExcelDemy project for more than 1 year. He has written over 100+ articles for ExcelDemy. He is a professional visual content developer adept at crafting scripts, meticulously editing Excel files, and delivering insightful video tutorials for YouTube channels. His work and learning interests vary from Microsoft Office Suites and Excel to Data Analysis, VBA, and Video recording and... Read Full Bio

2 Comments
  1. Thank you
    Your contents are very much helpful

    • You’re most welcome, Ovi! We’re always trying hard to deliver the best possible solutions to our readers.

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