Software Support for Bullet Graphs—An Increasingly Popular Means of Display

This blog entry was written by Bryan Pierce of Perceptual Edge.

In January 2006, when Steve first introduced bullet graphs as a more effective alternative to circular gauges in his book, Information Dashboard Design, they were no more than a design concept that he created using Adobe Illustrator. There were no functional bullet graphs being used in the real world and any application of them would have required custom programming. They were a useful design that hadn’t been implemented.

Now, as we start 2009, it’s been three years since bullet graphs were first introduced. Over that time, they’ve become popular as an alternative to circular gauges as people have noticed their ability to provide more information in a smaller space, which is especially useful for dashboards. Ambitious designers have found tricks to implement bullet graphs in a variety of products, and some software vendors now include bullet graphs in the graph libraries that they provide. As of today, bullet graphs are available or can be created in the following products:

Products that support bullet graphs right out of the box:

MicroCharts (Excel add-in) by Bonavista Systems

CenterView by Corda

Visual:Acuity by Visual Engineering

DExperience by Developer Express

Although not provided as a standard graph type, bullet graphs can also be constructed with:

SAS/Graph

QlikView by QlikTech

MicroStrategy

CURL

Flex by Adobe

R

HTML/CSS courtesy of Matt Grams

Google Charts courtesy of Dealer Diagnostics

SVG courtesy of Chris Gerrard

This list has grown significantly in just the last year and I expect it to continue to grow as more people discover the merits of bullet graphs. If you currently use a product that can’t create bullet graphs, be sure to tell the vendor how useful they would be, and if you know of a product that I haven’t mentioned here, please share it by posting a comment.

-Bryan Pierce

26 Comments on “Software Support for Bullet Graphs—An Increasingly Popular Means of Display”


By Andy Cotgreave. January 9th, 2009 at 2:17 am

There’s also this description on how to build one in Excel:
http://blog.instantcognition.com/visualization/2007/08/10/creating-bullet-charts-in-excel/

By Tim Kent. January 9th, 2009 at 3:01 am

Hi Bryan

Don’t forget those little known new-comers Microsoft ;) Bullet charts are now included in the 2008 release of SQL Server Reporting Services

Tim

By Jon Peltier. January 9th, 2009 at 3:50 am

I’m sure you know of Excel? Charley Kyd covered this:

How to Create Bullet Graphs
To Replace Gauges in Excel

By Bryan Pierce. January 9th, 2009 at 9:22 am

Tim,

I was not aware that they’d been added to Microsoft’s SQL Server Reporting Services. If you have a screenshot you can post, I’d love to see them.

Bryan

By nixnut. January 10th, 2009 at 11:47 am

Another Excel add-in that includes bullet graphs amongst its features:
http://sparklines-excel.blogspot.com/2008/05/bulletchart-and-revbulletchart.html

By James Johnson. January 11th, 2009 at 10:29 am

It’s possible to create bullet graphs in both reporting products from Data Dynamics. Data Dynamics Reports has a bullet graph control included with the product.

The graphing API provided in ActiveReports for .NET makes it possible to create bullet graphs as well.

By David Gerbino. January 11th, 2009 at 7:46 pm

I learned how to create Bullet Charts in Excel from Charlie Kyd in July 2006. Thank you Jon for posting the link. If I am not mistaken, Stephen was in communication with Charlie during his Excel creation.

I currently use the work at http://sparklines-excel.blogspot.com/ (thanks nixnut for the link) to prototype dashboards with my team and we hope to be migrating to XLCubed, the current owners of Bonavista, very soon.

What I have seen is a slow adoption of Stephen’s Bullet Charts and Edward’s sparklines. We all have a lot of work on our hands to get people away from bad visualizations and get them working on the good.

The sad news news is there are so many compnaies out their with tools and they all should have been on the list. There is no excuse.

@dmgerbino

By John. January 13th, 2009 at 9:43 am

.netCharting 5.2 now has bullet charts and sparklines. http://www.dotnetcharting.com/versionhistory.aspx

Also, if you check out the gallery, don’t let all the fancy graphics throw you. They do have the good (Tufte/Few style)stuff, too and you can “turn off” the 3D effects, etc. on the overly flashy charts.

By fzz. January 14th, 2009 at 4:27 pm

To be fair, if R supports certain graph types, S-Plus probably does too.

By Tony Harrison. January 15th, 2009 at 8:58 am

InstantAtlas supports interactive bullet graphs out of the box for the presentation of a wide range of area-based statistics.

Two examples of the Instant Atlas product:

http://www.norfolkdata.net/atlases/acornprofile/atlas.html

http://www.norfolkdata.net/atlases/performance/wards/atlas.html

By Timo Elliott. January 16th, 2009 at 8:49 am

I know you’re no fans of SAP BusinessObjects Xcelsius, but Donald MacCormick has provided sample components using the SDK for bullet graphs and sparklines

By Tim Kent. January 22nd, 2009 at 3:46 am

Hi Bryan

I’ve blogged about how to use them in Reporting Services 2008 with some screenshots:

http://blogs.adatis.co.uk/blogs/timkent/archive/2009/01/21/how-to-bullet-charts-in-reporting-services-2008.aspx

Thanks

Tim

By Colin Eberhardt. January 30th, 2009 at 3:48 am

I have written open source Bullet Graph controls for both Windows Forms and WPF:

http://www.codeproject.com/KB/WPF/WpfWinFormsBulletGraphs.aspx

Regards,
Colin E.

By Tory Cellar. February 15th, 2009 at 7:20 pm

Hi Bryan

The CALUMO Group also support bullet graphs right out of the box with CALUMO Sparks.

http://www.calumo.com/sparks.html

CALUMO Sparks also supports Line, Pie, Bar, Bullet, Grid, Progress, Stripe, Trend, KPI, Bubble, Heat Map & Harvey Ball charts.

By Wayne Johnson. February 19th, 2009 at 1:28 pm

You can also build bullet graphs using Information Builders, Inc.’s WebFOCUS.

By Bryan Pierce. February 25th, 2009 at 10:00 am

Recently, I also found out that iQ4bis (www.iq4bis.com) can be used to implement bullet graphs.

-Bryan

By Mark Flaherty. March 5th, 2009 at 2:51 pm

We recently made our Web charting engine free to use and it supports bullet graphs. It’s called Style Chart, and it’s a free tool for Web developers to embed dynamically generated charts that are very customizable.

By Sanket. March 21st, 2009 at 10:24 pm

Bullet graphs are also supported by FusionWidgets - http://www.fusioncharts.com/widgets/gallery.asp#bullet.

They pretty much offer all the functionality needed in bullet graphs and take in data in pretty intuitive XML. And as they say, you can add the “wow” factor by adding animation and other styles to it.

By Sean Boon. April 13th, 2009 at 1:06 pm

Yes, we do have Bullet Graphis in SQL Server Reporting Services. They are a gauge type.

I’ve posted samples of these in rdl files at http://cid-209305deacf224d0.skydrive.live.com/browse.aspx/TechReady%208

You will need either Report Builder 2.0 or BI Development Studio 2008 to open them.

-Sean

By Matt. September 16th, 2009 at 5:52 am

There is another way to make bullet graphs in excel. http://www.clearlyandsimply.com/clearly_and_simply/2009/09/bullet-graphs-for-excel-a-simple-way.html

By Sonali. January 5th, 2010 at 7:05 am

Hi there,

I am looking for code to generate bullet graphs in-cell in Google spreadsheets. If someone can please point me in the right direction.

Thanks,
Sonali.

By Martin. June 30th, 2010 at 5:01 am

Hello all.

Highcharts does a workaround here http://highcharts.com/studies/bullet-graph.htm

Although their example is a little bit bright the options are really easy to override and you can get a very flexible tool for creating these kind of graphs.

I have written a JQuery plug-in that pulls in the contents of div tag and then pushes a bullet graph back out.

By Catherine. March 6th, 2011 at 8:50 pm

Hi all

I downloaded the add in from http://sparklines-excel.blogspot.com/2008/05/bulletchart-and-revbulletchart.html
however the site does not give any instructions on how to build the bullet graph or the additional graphs it provides. Does anyone know of a manual?

By Bryan Pierce. March 7th, 2011 at 10:11 am

Hi Catherine,

It might not be as in-depth as you’re hoping for, but there is a manual for the Sparklines for Excel add-in. From the link that you posted just click the “Sparklines User Manual” link in the Downloads section, near the top of the page. Bullet Graphs are addressed on Page 6.

-Bryan

By Catherine. March 9th, 2011 at 6:18 pm

Hi Bryan,

Thanks for this - yes unfortunately not as in depth as I was after however its a start :)

Cheers,
Catherine

By abir ahmed. June 20th, 2011 at 3:35 am

Hey Bryan,I think we can develop bullet graph also using C sharp.
The article was a nice one.
Thanks,
Abir-childminder qualifications instructor.