Power BI Visuals – BAR CHARTS vs. TABLE DATA BARS – How to Configure Them and When To Use Each One

Bar Chart Visual vs Table/Matrix Data Bars

Both show horizontal bars, but have a few differences that need to be considered when using them in your Power BI Report and dashboards.


The bar chart can display an x & y axis with labels. Data bars have column headers. There is no way of showing x-axis value scale on data bars.

Data Labels

Bar chart labels automatically changes the colour of data labels based their location i.e. inside or outside the bar. The labels on data bars don't do this, so can sometimes be hidden if the bars are displaying lower values and have a shorter bar.

Category names

If used in smaller spaces the bar chart will not show the full category name. It is possible to change the portion of the chart used for category names ('max area width' setting), but there is a limit to how practical this will be when using the chart in a small area. It's fine for larger forms of the chart though.

The bar chart scales the bars to match the proportions of the visual. Better for large visuals i.e. those you need to display on a large screen in a common area or for visuals where the number of category values is variable. The table will add a scroll bar if there are too many categories or will white space if you increase the size of the visual beyond the number of category rows.

With a bar chart filtering on a category changes the location of the bar if category values are filtered out. When only one category value is showing is looks a bit lost 🙁

The table visual is a perhaps a better option when space is limited and you want to show a lot of detail is a small area and you know the maximum number of categories you are displaying.

On the table data bar configuration when showing percentages remember to set the axis to be 0, 1 (if the percentage can never be above 100%! This means that the width of a the column the data bar always represents 100%, not the largest percentage assigned to a category value.

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About the author 

Jason Davidson

Jason Davidson is the founder of EffectiveDashboards.com. He is a maintenance and reliability engineer who uses Power BI every day to create dashboards that help him and others make better decisions. In his spare time, he likes running and has recently got into photography. He also loves spending time hanging out and larking about with his two daughters.

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