# How to Create Histograms in Excel in Less Than 5 Minutes

30 May 2021*Use the built-in chart type to create histograms with Microsoft Excel. This post gives a step-by-step tutorial and tips to get most out of the feature.*

Whenever I get my hands on a new data set, I immediately turn to histograms to get myself acquainted with the data. Even with data that I’m familiar with, histograms allow me to quickly find interesting aspects in data attributes. In Excel, it’s best to create a histogram from the values in one column.

## What are Histograms?

Histograms almost look like any other column chart. But they have a special purpose. When you are working with numeric data, histograms allow you to show the distribution of this data and identify particular values or *data ranges* that occur often in the data set, and others that don’t occur at all or very infrequently. A histogram has a few characteristics:

- The
*values*are shown on the X-axis. - The
*frequency*, or the number of times a data range occurs, is shown on the Y-axis. - A histogram doesn’t show a column for every value. Instead, it groups values that are close to each other in
*bins*. All bins have the same*bin width.*

## When do you use Histograms?

Histograms are used when you want to better understand your data. To illustrate this, we will be working with this dataset of 10,000 men’s shoes.

Download a simplified version of the data set that is used in this post.

Let’s say you have to research shoe prices of shoes in the US. I downloaded the data set, removed a few columns that I knew I would not need. Column `B`

contains the prices for all men’s shoes of the data set. We can apply some statistical functions to get started. Just calculating the average (`AVERAGE(B:B)`

) gives you 112.37, while the median (`MEDIAN(B:B)`

)returns 65.

This is where histograms shine. The two statistical functions above give you one data point, but no context at all. Histograms let you see how the data behaves, whether there are any outliers, and where the most frequent values are.

## Histograms in Excel

**Note: **If you primarily work on Mac OS and use Excel for Mac, the steps to create a histogram are slightly different. Head on over this article to see how to create a histogram on Excel for Mac.

- Select the data you would like to analyze with the histogram
- In the “Insert” ribbon, choose the small histogram chart group icon
- Choose the first Histogram chart in that dialog

This will automatically create your histogram showing the distribution of prices from low to high. But this doesn’t look useful yet, does it?

There are a few important steps you should take with every histogram:

### Group together outliers

In a normal histogram, bins all have the same width. In our example, some shoes cost more than $16,000. This makes it hard to find patterns in the distribution other than the fact that most shoes cost much less.

In this situation, it is helpful to group together any shoes over, say, $500.

- Double-click the X-Axis to open the
`Format Axis`

dialog - Check
`Overflow Bin`

to cut off any outliers - Change the cut-off value to 500.

Now we have a much-improved histogram that allows us to better see the distribution of prices. Of course, feel free to play with this value to see how this changes your histogram.

### Select the optimal bin width

Now that our histogram is understandable, we can improve it further. By default, Excel automatically chose the bin width and the number of bins the histogram shows. But the 15 bins might be a bit too coarse. It isn’t particularly helpful yet to know that most shoes are priced between $37 and $74. If we change the number of bins, we get a better idea of how the data is shaped:

- In the
`Format Axis`

dialog, click`Number of bins`

- Change the value to 75

Now we can see that this histogram has many smaller peaks. That makes sense, as most shoes are priced at values like $49, $79.90, or 59.99. This is what the chart now shows. With any histogram, it’s best to play around with the bin width or the number of bins and find a setting that shows the overall shape but also any smaller peaks.

### Change the number format

Lastly, we want to change the number format of the X-axis so that it’s more easily readable.

- Expand the
`Number`

section of the`Format Axis`

dialog - Choose category
`Number`

- We’re interested in whole numbers only, so let’s set the
`Decimal places`

option to 0.

## Further Analysis

Once you have a histogram, the analysis process is not finished yet. In fact, you are just getting started. For example, you could compare the price distribution for different brands. To do that, filter your data just just show the shoes for one brand (or *Manufacturer*, in our case):

- Click the filter icon at the top of the
`Manufacturer`

column - Type the brand you’d like to look at (e.g.
`Nike`

) - Click
`OK`

See how your histogram changes. You might have to go through the steps above to tweak the histogram bins and end up with a useful chart.