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Bar chart vs. histogram: which one is ideal?

If you’re starting to explore the world of data or even if you have experience, you may have come across the dilemma of which type of chart is best to represent your data: bar chart or histogram? Although both are very useful in data analysis, they have their particularities and are suitable for different purposes.

To help you choose the most appropriate chart for your case, we will explain the differences between bar charts and histograms and show in which situations each one is more indicated.

Learn how to differentiate bar charts vs. histograms

The first visual difference between the two types of chart is that bars in the histogram are touching. In contrast, in a bar chart, they are separated.

With this, we can understand an important characteristic about each one. Bar charts are more suitable for representing numerical values that can be grouped into categories. On the other hand, histograms are recommended for showing continuous data, where the bars represent intervals of values.


Let’s now understand a little more about bar charts and histograms and talk about the particularities and uses of each one.

What is a bar chart and when should you use it?


A bar chart is a type of visualization that uses bars to represent numerical values. The bars can be horizontal or vertical, and their height or length is proportional to the value they represent. Bar charts are more suitable for representing discrete data, i.e., data that can be counted or grouped.

For example, if you have a data set representing the sales quantity of different products in a month, you can use a bar chart to represent that data. Each bar represents a product, and the height of the bar represents the quantity of sales. Bar charts have become very popular because they are easy to understand and can be used for various types of information.

What is a histogram?


A histogram is a type of chart that uses bars to represent the frequency distribution of a set of continuous data. The bars are drawn so that they represent intervals of values, and the height of the bar corresponds to the frequency of values (how many times the interval of values appears).

For example, if you have a data set representing the age of a population, you can use a histogram to represent the distribution of this variable. Each bar represents an age interval (e.g., 5 to 10 years), and the height of the bar represents the frequency of individuals found in this interval (e.g., 3 people).

Bar chart vs. histogram, which one should I use?

If you intend to analyze data that has simple categories for the purpose of comparing data between them, the bar chart is the best option. However, if you want to analyze data frequencies, standardization, or variations, the histogram will be the ideal choice. As we saw earlier, although both types of chart are visually similar, they have structural and data reading differences.

In this case, it is very important that you pay attention to the characteristics of each one and understand how they work and how they can illustrate a certain sample of information. Charts are not always easy structures to read and understand how to use since there is a true infinity of them. Therefore, knowing ways to simplify this reading is something fundamental.

Now that you have learned more about bar charts vs. histograms, continue to deepen your knowledge on the topic.


Read more:

Data Visualization: Science, art, or both?

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