Combination charts combine data using more than one chart type, for example columns and a line. Building a combination chart in Excel is usually pretty easy. But if one series type is horizontal bars, then combining this with another type can be tricky. I’m here to help with Bar-Line, or rather, Bar-XY combination charts in Excel.
Combination Charts in Excel
I’ll illustrate a simple combination chart with this simple data. The chart will use the first column for horizontal axis category labels, the second column for actual values plotted using lines with markers, and the third column using columns (vertical bars).
We start by selecting the data and inserting a column chart.
We finish by right clicking on the “Actual” data, choosing Change Series Chart Type from the pop-up menu, and selecting the new chart type we want. I’ve also used a lighter shade of orange for the columns, to make the markers stand out better.
Let’s do the same for a bar chart. Select the data, insert a bar chart.
Okay, the category labels are along the vertical axis, but we’ll continue by changing the Actual data to a line chart series. That didn’t work out at all. The markers are not positioned vertically along the centers of the horizontal bars, nor horizontally where the data lies in the Actual column of the worksheet.
In the chart below I’ve shown all axis scales and axis titles to illustrate the problem. When we converted the Actual series to a line type, Excel assigned it to the secondary axis, and we have no ability to reassign it to the primary axis. The primary axes used for the bar chart are not aligned with the secondary axes used for the line chart: the X axis for the bars is vertical and the X axis for the line is horizontal; the Y axis for the bars is horizontal and the Y axis for the line is vertical.
We can’t use a line chart at all. If we want to line up the markers horizontally with their proper position along the lengths of the bars, we need to use the Actual data as the X values of an XY series. We will need to generate some additional data for the Y values of the XY series.
Bar-XY Combination Chart
We will not try to make a Bar-Line combination chart, because the Line chart type does not position the markers where we want them. We will make a Bar-XY chart type, using an XY chart type (a/k/a Scatter chart type) to position markers.
Here is the new data needed for our Bar-XY combination chart. The factor labels and Target values will be used by the Bar chart series, and the Actual values and Heights for the XY series. Don’t worry about the Height values: I’ll show how they are derived in a moment. The nice thing is that we can use dummy values now and type in the proper values later and the chart will update.
Select the first two columns of the data and insert a bar chart.
Since we probably want the categories listed in the same order as in the worksheet, let’s select the vertical axis (which in a bar chart is the X axis) and press Ctrl+1, the shortcut that opens the Format dialog or task pane for the selected object in Excel. Check the box for Categories in Reverse Order and also select Horizontal Axis Crosses at Maximum Category to move it next to Factor 5.
I’ve also recolored the bars orange, because blue markers show up better against light orange than orange markers against light blue.
Now copy the last two columns (Actual and Height), select the chart, and on the Home tab of the ribbon, click the Paste dropdown arrow, choose the options in this dialog (add cells as new series, values in columns, series names in first row, categories in first column), and click OK.
The data is added as another set of bars, which I’ve colored blue, but we’ll change that in a second.
Right-click on the added series, select Change Series Chart Type from the pop-up menu, and select XY with markers and lines.
We see that the horizontal positions of the markers is just what we want to show.
Now we can see where the values in the Heights column comes from. The right hand vertical axis is used for the Y values of the XY series. Looking at the positions of the horizontal bars and the markers in their correct positions, we can see that the Factor 1 bar is centered on Y=4.5, the Factor 2 bar is centered on 3.5, etc. If you hadn’t guessed this at the beginning, type these values into your data range, and let the chart update.
A few minor changes and we’ll be done. First, change the name of the XY series from Heights to Actual. The easiest way is to click on the series, then look at the highlighted ranges in the chart. The X values (C2:C6) are highlighted purple, the Y values (D2:D6) are highlighted blue, and the series name (cell D1) is highlighted red (highlight colors in Excel 2010 and earlier are different, but the concept is the same). Click on the red border of cell D2, and drag the highlighting rectangle to cover cell C2 to change the series name.
Click on the red border of cell D2, and drag the highlighting rectangle to cover cell C2 to change the series name.
Then, use a lighter shade of orange for the bars, so the blue markers stand out. Finally, hide the right-hand vertical axis: format it so it has no labels and no line color.
And there’s our completed Bar-XY Combination Chart.