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Excel Waterfall

Charts)
by

(Bridge

Jon

Thursday,
Peltier

Charts

Peltier

July
Technical

Services,

7th,
Inc.,

Copyright

2011

2012.

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.

Waterfall charts are commonly used in business to show how a value changes from one state to
another through a series of intermediate changes. For example, you can project next years profit or
cash flow starting with this years value, and showing the up and down effects of changing costs,
revenues, and other inputs. Waterfall charts are often called bridge charts, because a waterfall chart
shows a bridge connecting its endpoints. A simple waterfall chart is shown below:

There is more than one way to create a waterfall chart in Excel. The first approach described below is
to create a stacked column chart with up and down columns showing changes and a transparent
columns that help the visible columns to float at the appropriate level. Under some circumstances this
simple approach breaks down, and another approach is described.

Floating Column Chart Data and Calculations


Here is some sample data showing how to construct a stacked-column waterfall chart. The left table
has a column of labels, then a column with just the initial and final values, then columns with

increases and decreases in value. This is the almost arrangement needed for making the chart, but I
prefer to put these values into a single column as shown at right, and let the formulas sort it all out.

The first approach most people try is to use a floating column chart, that is, a stacked column chart
with the bottom column in the stack hidden to make the others float. This range contains the
calculations needed to make a floating column waterfall chart. After the two columns of labels and
values, as in the top right table, there are calculated columns for the chart endpoints, the blank series
that supports the floaters, and up and down values. Here are the formulas; the formulas in D3:F3 are
filled down to row 7:
Cell C2:

=B2

Cell C8:

=SUM(B2:B7)

Cell D3:

=MIN(SUM(B$2:B2),SUM(B$2:B3))

Cell E3:

=MAX(B3,0)

Cell F3:

=-MIN(B3,0)

The chart is pretty easy to make. Select A1:A8 (yes, include the blank top cell), hold Ctrl and select
C1:F8 so both selected areas are highlighted, and create a stacked column chart.

Finish up with a little formatting. Set the gap width of the columns to 75%: format the series and on
the Series Options or Options tab, change the value for gap width. Hide the Blank series by giving it
no border and no fill, use colors that invoke positive and negative for the audience (usually green and
red, which makes it tough for those with color vision deficiencies), remove the legend.

Data Crossing into Negative Territory: Breakdown with


Stacked Columns
That seems just too simple to be true. And in fact, for data like the following, which has negative as
well as positive values, the simple floating column chart approach fails.

The green and red bars are the correct length, and as long as they are located completely above the
horizontal axis, the chart is cool. But the formula computing the blank values is too simplistic, and
Excel prohibits the floating bars from floating across the axis.

You can still use stacked columns, but you need to compute two sets of up bars and two sets of down
bars, one set of each that lies above the axis, and one that lies below the axis. You also need to fix the
formula for the blank series so it floats each column above or below the axis as necessary, or provides
no float if the column spans the axis. Wow, so complicated.
But wait!

Approach Using Up-Down Bars


There is another approach which takes a bit longer to chart, but the formulas are easier, and the
columns in this case are able to float anywhere, even across the axis. This approach is based on line
charts and a line chart feature called up-down bars. Up-down bars connect the first line chart value at
a category to the last, like the open-close bars in a stock chart. In fact, Excel uses up-down bars as
open-close bars in its stock charts. The up bars and down bars can be formatted individually.

The range below contains the calculations needed to make an up-down bar waterfall chart. After the
two columns of labels and values, as above, there are calculated columns for the chart endpoints, and
the values before and after adding an item to the previous total. Here are the formulas; the formulas
in D3:E3 are filled down to row 7:
Cell C2:

=B2

Cell C8:

=SUM(B2:B7)

Cell D3:

=SUM(B$2:B2)

Cell E3:

=SUM(B$2:B3)

The chart-making process is a bit longer than for the floating column chart approach. Select A1:A8,
hold Ctrl while selecting C1:E8, and create a line chart.

Select the Ends series and convert it to a column chart.

Select one of the line series, and add Up-Down Bars. In Excel 2007 and 2010, go to the Chart Tools >
Layout tab, click the Up-Down Bars button, and select Up-Down Bars from the menu. In Excel 2003
and earlier, format the series, and check Up-Down Bars on the Options tab.

Hide the line chart series by formatting them to show no line and no markers, and format the up-down
bar colors.

Remove the legend, and change the gap width of the column and the up-down bars to 0.75. This is
easy for the column: simply format the series and on the Series Options or Options tab, change the
gap width value. For the up-down bars in Excel 2003 and 2010, format one of the line chart series,
and on the Options or Series Options tab, change the gap width value.
In Excel 2007 there is no way to change the up-down bar gap width from within the user interface, but
you can do it with VBA. Press Alt+F11 to open the Visual Basic Editor. Press Ctrl+G (or go to View
menu > Immediate Window) to open the Immediate Window. Type the following line of code into the
Immediate Window (capitalization does not matter), then press Enter:

ActiveChart.ChartGroups(2).GapWidth = 75

Indistinguishable from the floating stacked column approach.

Data Crossing into Negative Territory: No Problem with


Up-Down Bars

This is the negative trending data set that messed up the floating columns. The up-down formulas
work just fine.

Follow the same process. Create a line chart.

Change the Ends series to columns.

Add up-down bars to the lines.

Hide the lines and markers and format your colors.

Change the necessary gap widths, and delete the legend.

Perfect, no problem with spanning the axis with our floating columns.

Stacked Columns for Positive and Negative Data


Earlier I said that its possible to use stacked columns for mixed values, and for completeness Im
going to describe the protocol here. If you dont care to read about it, feel free to skip ahead, or to
visit some of the other tutorials on this web site.
Heres the start of the calculations for the stacked-column-across-the-axis approach. Here are the
formulas for blanks above and below zero in D3 and E3:
Cell D3:

=MAX(0,MIN(SUM(B$2:B2),SUM(B$2:B3)))

Cell E3:

=MIN(0,MAX(SUM(B$2:B2),SUM(B$2:B3)))

Since at most only one of these has a non-zero value, we can replace the two formulas by a single
formula which adds them together:
Cell

F3:

=MAX(0,MIN(SUM(B$2:B2),SUM(B$2:B3)))

+MIN(0,MAX(SUM(B$2:B2),SUM(B$2:B3)))

Lets consolidate the Blank column, and compute the other values. Here are the formulas; those in
D3:H3 are filled down to row 7:
Cell C2:

=B2

Cell C8:

=SUM(B2:B7)

Cell

D3:

=MAX(0,MIN(SUM(B$2:B2),SUM(B$2:B3)))

+MIN(0,MAX(SUM(B$2:B2),SUM(B$2:B3)))
Cell E3:

=MAX(0,MIN(SUM(B$2:B3),B3))

Cell F3:

=-MAX(0,B3-E3)

Cell G3:

=MAX(0,H3-B3)

Cell H3:

=MIN(0,MAX(SUM(B$2:B3),B3))

Select A1:A8, hold Ctrl while selecting C1:H8 so both areas are highlighted, and create a stacked

column chart.
to

hide

it,

Format the Blank series


format

both

Up

series

the

same

and

both

Down

series

the

same.

The result is almost identical to the up-down bar


version, except here the horizontal axis is not hidden by the bars that cross the axis.

Waterfall Chart with Intermediate Cumulative Totals


Its easy to accommodate intermediate totals in a waterfall chart. Adjust your formulas so the Ends
series has a cumulative total and no red or green bars at the appropriate category. Construction of the
charts is the same as without the intermediate totals.

Here is how the data and charts appear for a stacked column waterfall chart with intermediate totals:

Here is how the data and charts appear for an up-down bar waterfall chart with intermediate totals:

Peltier Tech Waterfall Chart Utility


This tutorial shows how to create waterfall charts in Excel, including the specialized data layout
needed, and the detailed combination of chart series and chart types required. This manual process
takes time, can be prone to error, and soon becomes tedious. If you want to add data labels, tedium
increases.

I have created the Peltier Tech Waterfall Chart Utility to create such charts automatically from raw
data. This utility, a standard Excel add-in, lays out data in the required layout, then constructs a chart
with the right combination of chart types. This is a commercial product which has been tested on
thousands of machines in a wide variety of configurations. Using this utility will save you time and
aggravation.
Please visit the Peltier Tech Waterfall Chart Utility page or the Peltier Tech Waterfall Chart
Utility Documentation page for more information.

Compound Floating Columns


Sometimes a waterfall chart may have two or more items stacked within a floating column. In the data
table below, we see that Items A and B both contribute to the accumulating value. This kind of
illustration only makes sense if the Item A and B values are all positive or all negative. Otherwise the
chart will be confusing.

This table contains calculated blank data for a stacked (floating) column waterfall:

Select the data in column A, then hold Ctrl while selecting the data in columns C through E, and insert
a stacked column chart as before.

Hide the blank series and the chart is complete.

A compound waterfall chart with up to two elements can be made using the up-down bar approach.
There can be only one set of up-down bars per axis, so one set is on the primary axis and the other on
the secondary axis.
Here is how the data is arranged for up-down bar waterfall. Here are the formulas that generate the
table, which are filled down as far as shown:
Cell E3:

=SUM(B$2:D2)

Cell F3:

=E3+C3

Cell G3:

=F3

Cell H3:

=G3+D3

Select A1:B8, then hold Ctrl while selecting E1:H8 so both regions are highlighted, and insert a line
chart.

Move the Before B and After B series to the secondary axis.

Select the secondary vertical axis (right of chart) and press Delete.

Convert the Ends series to a column.

Select either Before A or After A and add Up-Down Bars.

Select either Before B or After B and add Up-Down Bars.

Format the up-down bars and adjust gap widths.

If the endpoints are also split by item, the data looks something like this.

Here the blanks have been calculated for floating columns:

Construction of the chart is the same as before, starting with a stacked column chart, except there is
no Ends series.

Here is the finished chart with Blanks made transparent.

Here the Before and After A and B values have been calculated for up-down bars:

Construction of the chart is the same as before, starting with a line chart, except there is no Ends
series which must be converted to columns. Before and After A stay on the primary axis, while Before
and After B move to the secndary axis.

Add two sets of up-down bars.

Hide the legend, hide the lines and markers, and format the up down bars. The chart looks just like
that using stacked columns.

Because there are only primary and secondary axes in an Excel chart, the up-down bar approach can
only support a two-item per stack waterfall chart. The stacked column approach can support many
more items: the limitation is imposed by the legibility of the resulting chart.
Here is data for a waterfall chart with three items per stack (you could add enough items to make
your chart illegible).

The data has a calculated Blank column to float the three columns.

Select the data in column A, and hold Ctrl while selecting the data in columns C through F, and insert a
stacked column chart.

Hide the Blank series, and hide the unwanted legend entries (click once to select the legend, and click
a second time on the legend entry, and press Delete).

Related Posts:

Add Percentages on the Secondary Axis

Candlestick Alternative: Individually Colored Up-Down Bars

Stock Charts in Excel 2007

Simple Box Plots

Interactive Charts with Checkboxes and Formulas

Conditional Formatting of Excel Charts

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Posted:

Thursday,

July

7th,

2011

under

Chart

Types.

Comments: 18

Comments

Comment

from

Joe

Mako

Time: Thursday, July 7, 2011, 4:43 pm


I always enjoy a good waterfall chart, thank you for these great examples.
I

remade

these

in

Tableau,

and

added

couple

of

other

features,

you

can

see

them

at:

http://public.tableausoftware.com/views/WaterfallExamples/Waterfall
(there are two tabs, and they are interactive, with values effected by the filters)

Comment

from

Bob

Time: Friday, July 8, 2011, 6:05 pm


Hi Jon,
Really like the up/down bar approach. Always learn something here.
Cheers,
Bob

Comment
Time: Tuesday, August 16, 2011, 6:40 am

from

Anonymous

Correction: Am i missing something? It seems the issue with the up/down bar approach is that it does NOT show
correct labelling for the change in value from one bar to another.

Comment

from

Jon

Peltier

Time: Tuesday, August 16, 2011, 6:49 am


Actually, the up-down bars cannot be labeled directly. You have to label one of the existing line chart series or add
a new series, and the labels have to be custom, not a simple value.
What I do is add a line chart series. I use the labels I want to show as the X values, which Excel ignores, treating
them as valueless categories. I use the vertical position as the Y values. I add the series, move it to the secondary
axis, then delete the secondary X and Y axes. Then I label this series using the category labels option, and hide the
markers and lines.
So you see, its still easier than stacked columns, especially when the bars cross the axis.

Comment

from

Maher

Time: Tuesday, August 16, 2011, 7:37 am


Absolutely great tutorial.

Comment

from

GB

Time: Friday, September 2, 2011, 10:48 pm


Excellent

Comment

from

Cesar

Time: Wednesday, October 19, 2011, 12:03 pm


Jon,
Do you have a version that can cluster different data sets within each up and down bar, like having a stack bar
within each up and down bar, allowing each element in the stack to be a different color?

My specific application is for a multi-location system. I want to show the growth each year at each location (up
stack, unique color for each, say from a green palate), the new product declines from each location (a down stack,
each location with a color from a blue palate) and the drop from legacy products (a down stack, each location with
a color from a red palate).
The charting can get much more granular but the risk is having directors that may get lost in a busy chart.
Your thoughts?
From data-density man in Texas
Thanks.

Comment

from

Jon

Peltier

Time: Wednesday, October 19, 2011, 3:43 pm


Cesar Ive actually built something like this. Its rather complicated. It uses the stacked column approach with several
shades each for positive and negative changes. Instead of a pattern of one bar and one gap, there are two bars
and one gap. If all items move in the same direction, the two adjacent bar stacks are identical, with the same
values for the same shaded bars. It the items move in different directions, then the first bar shows the increases
and the second shows the decreases.

Comment

from

Sicco

Jan

Bier

Time: Monday, October 31, 2011, 8:16 am


Jon,
great chart, I will use the up-down bar.
For the labels, although you explain the method it was not so clear to me. For reference of other readers and
possibly to include in the instruction: is the below how youd do it for Waterfall Chart with Intermediate
Cumulative Totals?
Column
Column
Column

A-E

holds

the

information

as

proposed

holds
G

in
my

holds

the

second

table
label
my

of

the

paragraph
information
Yvalue

Formula

F2:F8=MAX(B2,C2)

Formula

G2=F2/2

Formula G3:G8=MIN(D3:E3)+ABS(MAX(B3:C3))/2

This distributes the value of the initial,medium and end column and the change portion of the up down bar in the
middle of all bars.
Is there an easier way that I am overlooking?
Kind regards, Sicco Jan

Comment

from

Jon

Peltier

Time: Monday, October 31, 2011, 2:10 pm


Sicco Jan Yes, thats a good way to do it, pretty much the same way that my commercial utility does it. Even though the
added series is plotted on the secondary axis, you can delete the secondary Y axis (right of the chart) and all data
will use the primary Y axis.

Comment

from

oscar

Time: Thursday, November 24, 2011, 9:49 am


Thanks!!! Very useful

Comment

from

leandro

Time: Thursday, December 22, 2011, 3:15 pm


This Web is great.
Regards,
Leandro
(brazil)

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Time: Tuesday, January 31, 2012, 2:29 am

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[...] [...]

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Time: Thursday, February 9, 2012, 1:44 am


[...] A great way to view this type of financial information is a waterfall chart. Excel guru Jon Peltier shows how to
make one in Excel here. [...]

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Time: Friday, February 10, 2012, 6:37 pm


[...] how I got there. First, I read Peltiers post on the subject. Then I read Tushars page on the subject. Both are
for columns, not bars, but [...]

Comment

from

Carlos

Time: Thursday, March 15, 2012, 3:05 pm


This was super easy to follow and worked great. Thanks so much!

Comment

from

Mike

Time: Monday, April 23, 2012, 4:38 pm


Thanks for your tips on building a Waterfall Chart with Intermediate Totals. One question. Only the Series Up
Data Labels are shown with the proper value. The Down Data Labels all show 0. How can I get the Down
values to also show. Thanks, Mike

Comment
Time: Monday, April 23, 2012, 4:46 pm
I figured it out. Thanks again!!

from

Mike

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