Bullet Chart

Bullet chart is a great data visualization tool that can be used to compare the performance of a metric. For example, if you want to compare the sales of two years or to compare the total sales to a target, you can use bullet charts. Bullet chart was developed by Stephen Few to overcome the issues of gauges and meters as they require too much space and display too little information.

Bullet Chart Excel

Bullet graph features a main measure, compares it to a target and displays the performance as Worst, Average and Best or Poor, Satisfactory and Good etc. Bullet graphs can be horizontal or vertical. Bullet charts are easy to read and understand. However, there is no easy way to create bullet charts in Excel. In other words, you cannot directly insert bullet charts in Excel unlike other types of charts.

Create a Bullet Chart

Step 1. Open Excel 2010 and save your file as bullet.xlsx. Enter details as in the following image.

Bullet Chart Table Data

Step 2. Select cells from B2 to F6 and go to Insert (main menu) --> Bar (in the Charts group) and select the first chart type from the 2-D Bar section (circled in red).

Bullet Chart 2D Bar Graph

Now you will get a chart like this:

Bullet Chart Chart Inserted

Step 3. Select the legend (the section that contains Excellent, Satisfactory and Poor) and press the Delete button. Now your screen will look like this:

Bullet Chart Legend Removed

Step 4. Right click any of the green bar and click Format Data Series option.

Bullet Chart Format Data Series

From the new window, select Series Options from the left. In the textbox under Series Overlap, enter 100% and in the textbox under Gap Width, enter 50%.

Bullet Chart Series Options

Click the Close button. Now your screen will look like this:

Bullet Chart Series Formatted

Step 5. Right click any of the green bar and click Select Data option.

Bullet Chart Series Formatted

In the new window, click the item Excellent and using the up arrow move it upwards. Using the up and down arrows (next to Remove button) correctly, position the item Satisfactory in the middle and the item Poor in the last.

Bullet Chart Select Data Source

Select the Edit button below Horizontal (Category) Axis Labels to get a new window like this:

Bullet Chart Axis Labels

Click the spreadsheet icon and select cells from A3 to A6. Your window should look like this:

Bullet Chart Axis Labels Formula

Click OK to get a window like this:

Bullet Chart Select Data Source Edit

Again click OK and you will get a screen like this:

Bullet Chart Bars Formatted

Step 6. Right click the blue section and click Format Data Series option. Click Fill from the left and select Solid Fill from the right, and from the Color drop down select any dark color.

Bullet Chart Fill

Click the Close button. Repeat the same for brown and green sections and choose lighter versions of the same dark color you selected previously. Now your chart will look like this (the color could be different).

Bullet Chart Blue Bars

Step 7. Right click any of the blue bar and click Select Data. In the new window, click the Add button and you will get a new window. Click in the Series Name: textbox and click the cell B1. Click in the Series Values: textbox and select cells from B3 to B6. Now the window will look like this:

Bullet Chart Edit Series

Click OK. Again click the Add button. Click in the Series Name: textbox and click the cell C1. Click in the Series Values: textbox and select cells from C3 to C6. Now the window will look like this:

Bullet Chart Edit Series Formulas

Click OK and again click OK.

Step 8. Right click the blue section and click Change Series Chart Type option.

Bullet Chart Change Series Chart Type

You will get a new window and select XY (Scatter) from the left hand side. From the right, select the first chart type below the XY (Scatter) section.

Bullet Chart XY Chart

Your chart will look like this:

Bullet Chart Violet Bars

Select the purple section and repeat step 8. Now your chart will look like this:

Bullet Chart Bars and Points

Step 9. Right click any purple cross mark and click Select Data option. From the left, select 2013 and click Edit button. You will get a new window. Click in the Series name: textbox and click the cell B1. Click in the Series X values: textbox and select cells from B3 to B6. Enter the values 10,30,50,70 in the Series Y values: textbox. Now the window will look like this:

Bullet Chart Series Values

Click OK button. Select Target and click Edit button. Click in the Series name: textbox and click the cell C1. Click in the Series X values: textbox and select cells from C3 to C6. Enter the values 10,30,50,70 in the Series Y values: textbox. Now the window will look like this:

Bullet Chart Edit Series Target

Click OK button and click OK button again. Now your screen will look like this:

Bullet Chart Points Moved

Step 10. Click any of the blue cross mark and go to Layout (main menu) --> Error bars (from the Analysis group) and select Error Bars with Percentage.

Bullet Chart Errors Bars with Percentage

Now you will see a horizontal and vertical line over all the four blue cross marks like this:

Bullet Chart cross marks

Select the horizontal line and delete it so that you will get a screen like this:

Bullet Chart cross marks horizontal lines deleted

Step 11. Go to Layout (main menu) and click the Chart Area dropdown (from Current Selection group).

Bullet Chart Chart Area

Select Series "Target " Y Error Bars from the dropdown and click Format Selection just below the dropdown. You will get a new window. Select Vertical Error Bars from the left hand side. Select Both from the Direction section and No Cap from End Style section. Enter 7 in the Percentage textbox under Error Amount section. Now your screen will look like this:

Bullet Chart Vertical Error Bars

Select Line Style from left and enter 3 pt in the Width combo box. Now your screen will look like this:

Bullet Chart Line Style

Click Close button to get a chart like this:

Bullet Chart Lines Formatted

Step 12. Click any purple cross mark and repeat steps 10 and 11. Delete the vertical line instead of horizontal line. Select Series "2013" X Error Bars from the dropdown and click Format Selection just below the dropdown. You will get a new window. Select Horizontal Error Bars from the left hand side. Select Minus from the Direction section and No Cap from End Style section. Enter 100 in the Percentage textbox under Error Amount section. Now your screen will look like this:

Bullet Chart Horizontal Error Bars

Select Line Style from left hand side and enter 6 pt in the Width combo box. Click Close button.

Step 13. Right click any of the cross mark and click Format Data Series option. In the new window, select Marker Options from the left and click None from the right.

Bullet Chart Marker Options

Click Close button and your chart is ready now.

Bullet Chart Ready Sample to Download