For a long time Excel users have wanted a way to plot a bar showing the relative magnitude of a range of numbers without having to resort to a chart or complex formulas to do this.

Now, with Excel 2007 this feature is now built in and dead easy to use. To try it out, first type a series of numbers in a column, then select the series. Click the Home tab and click the Conditional Formatting button.

Select Data Bars and then select the color of the bar to use. The relative length of each colored bar indicates the relative value of the number in that cell.

There is one caution, however. All values – even very small values will be given a minimum bar length of 10% so they can be seen – so, use this feature as a guide and not an accurate measure.

Helen Bradley