How to automatically highlight specific data using a bar chart in Excel

1 minute read time.

This Microsoft Registered Excel Registered tip will come in handy when you want to create a chart that will populate your data and highlight only specific parts of that data.

Download the workbook to practise this exercise.

In the example below, we will look at a grocery store. The chart displays the revenue generated from the produce department.


If, for example, you wanted to see how Pears compare to Bananas you could easily highlight these data points by following the below steps:

1. Add additional columns for "Relevant", "Non-Relevant" and "Criteria".

2. Enter the criteria to be met under the "Criteria" columns, e.g. Bananas and Pears.

3. The "Relevant" column uses an IF(COUNTIF formula to determine if the item meets the criteria and if so will return the value.

4. The "Non-Relevant" column will return a value if the criteria was not met for the "Relevant" column.


5. Create a chart using the "Relevant" and "Non-Relevant" columns.  The columns are displayed in different colours.


6. For the chart to display correctly, right click on a data bar and select Format Data Series.

7. From the Format Data Series dialogue box, set the Series Overlap to 100%. As each produce type has two columns being used in the chart, one with a value and one equal to 0, by overlapping the bars we avoid having an "empty bar" being displayed.


By changing your criteria, the chart is automatically refreshed, and the relevant bars are highlighted.