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    How to Rotate Horizontal Bar Charts into Vertical Column Charts (and Vice Versa)

    Updated on: Feb 14th, 2017
    Data Visualization in Excel
    , , , , ,
    Oops, age ranges are ordinal so the categories should be listed from left to right, not from top to bottom.

    Here’s a common message I receive:

    “Ann, I read your latest post, and I accidentally made a horizontal bar chart when it should’ve been a vertical bar chart! Am I going to have to delete my graph and start from scratch?”

    Maybe you’ve got something like this, where you want to display the number of people who fall into each age range.

    Oops, age ranges are ordinal so the categories should be listed from left to right, not from top to bottom.

    What’s Better, Vertical Column Charts or Horizontal Bar Charts?

    I suggest displaying ordinal data, like age ranges, from left to right across your viewer’s page or screen.

    That means that this chart with horizontal bars would get rotated into a chart with vertical columns.

    Do I Have to Delete the Chart and Start Over?

    No way! Don’t delete a thing! That would be a huge waste of your time. I’m here to save your time, not waste it.

    How to Rotate Horizontal Bar Charts into Vertical Column Charts (and Vice Versa)

    There are just a few steps involved.

    Step 1: Click on the Change Chart Type Button

    In Microsoft Excel, click anywhere on your chart to activate it.

    That’ll make the Design and Format tabs magically appear across the top of your file.

    In the Design tab, look for the Change Chart Type icon.

    (On Macs, you’ll see a range of mini chart icons with the words Change Chart Type down below, rather than a separate Change Chart Type icon. You also tend to see the Change Chart Type options on the left side of the screen instead of the right side of the screen. It’s the same thing, really.)

    Click on your chart, go to the Design tab, and look for the Change Chart Type icon

    Step 2: Select Your Desired Chart Type from the Menu

    The Change Chart Type button pulls up Excel’s menu of options.

    We’ve currently got a horizontal bar chart selected.

    As shown in this screenshot, we've currently got a horizontal bar chart selected.
    Scan the listing on the left, select a vertical column chart, and hit OK.

    Your horizontal bar chart will transpose itself on its axis and turn into a vertical column chart, which is much more appropriate for an ordinal variable like age ranges.

    Scan the listing of chart types along the left, select a vertical column chart, and hit OK to magically transform your bar chart.

    This Microsoft Excel trick is much faster than deleting your graph and starting from scratch, don’t you think?

    Bonus: Download the Excel Template

    Want to use these bar and column charts in your own projects? Download my file and use the charts however you’d like.


    Download the template

    More about Ann K. Emery
    Ann K. Emery is a sought-after speaker who is determined to get your data out of spreadsheets and into stakeholders’ hands. Each year, she leads more than 100 workshops, webinars, and keynotes for thousands of people around the globe. Her design consultancy also overhauls graphs, publications, and slideshows with the goal of making technical information easier to understand for non-technical audiences.

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