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MS Excel 2007: Visual Data Bars

Monday, July 19th, 2010 by | Filed Under: MS Excel

Sometimes you just need to see how the data stacks up.

You’ve got a string of numbers and you need to visually see how they compare.


Is one value way bigger than the rest? Are they distributed fairly evenly or at most of the numbers higher than the others? Lower than the others?

Whatever you need to know about how they compare you want to know it now with no sorting, no manually going through the data and no charts created.

It’s an ugly situation with the list “as is”.

If that’s a situation you’re familiar with then you may like the quick and easy Data Bars found in Excel 2007 in the Conditional Formatting choices.

By applying Data Bars to the data you’ll now see the above set like this:


Pretty nice, huh? The longer the bar the higher the value is compared to the others.

Now that you know what it is let’s work on the how to do it part.

You begin by selecting the data to which we’ll apply the formatting.

On the Home tab of the Ribbon click the Conditional Formatting button.


From the list choose Data Bars then pick a color.

If you don’t like the color choices there you can choose More Rules.


At the bottom you’ll find the “Bar color” field… it’s there that you’ll have access to any color you like. Choose one and click OK.

Now, obviously there’s a few more things going on in that particular dialog box – it allows us to create rules for applying Data Bars but I’m thinking that it’s a discussion for another day…


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