Surprisingly enough, it’s not that easy to get a bar chart to grow or shrink in PowerPoint. There are a few ways around it, but each of them has strengths and weaknesses. Hopefully one of them will work for your slide – and might just be the missing trick you’ve been searching for.

Each of the following methods has been designed to work with a chart that you’ve created yourself using Autoshapes – boxes, lines and arrows – I’ll cover animations in PowerPoint charts proper in a later blog post.

So, you’ve created something like this:

How to make PowerPoint bar charts grow or shrink

Masking (easy)

The first technique is a quick workaround using additional Autoshape boxes.

To make a bar shrink, you create a rectangle the same colour as your slide background, and animate it in over the top portion of your slide.

To make the bar grow, you create a rectangle the same colour as your existing bar, and animate it in to extend your bar’s height.

You need to match your box to the background or the existing bar. If (for whatever reason) you can’t format your shape to perfectly match – for example, if you have a picture on your slide background – this method won’t work for you. But it’s great if your slide has a blank background, or your bar is a single block colour.

How to make PowerPoint bar charts grow or shrink

Replacing (moderate)

A slightly more complex – but more effective – method to make your PowerPoint bar chart grow or shrink is to replace your existing bar with a completely new one. You simply replicate your bar, adjust it to the size you need, and animate it in as you animate out the existing bar. This will work the same way if you want your shape to grow or to shrink.

The neatest way to animate this effect is to use the ‘Wipe’ animations – and choose ‘Up’ as the direction. Timing them together will give you a simple, clean effect. Below the bars are shown in different shades just for illustration. Make them the same colour and line them up in your slide.

How to make PowerPoint bar charts grow or shrink

Grouping and growing (challenging)

If you’re a perfectionist (or work for BrightCarbon) the first two just won’t give you the effect you’re after – both are a little clunky and not quite as smooth as they could be. To make something grow or shrink really smoothly, you need to use the ‘Grow/Shrink’ emphasis animation.

The problem is that when you use this effect, and you change the ‘Effect Options’ to apply vertically, PowerPoint makes the shape grow from the centre, rather than either end. On a chart, this means that the bar will extend upwards but also downwards through the x axis. Very irritating.

To overcome this, you need to give PowerPoint a new shape centre from which to grow (in other words, you need to double the size of the shape). The easiest way to do this is to replicate your existing bar and group the two shapes while they are end-to-end. Now make the second shape transparent (no fill and no line). Sit your group so that the join between the two shapes sits on the x axis.

Now, apply a ‘Grow/Shrink’ animation to this group.  Remember to change the animation options to ‘vertical’ so it only moves up or down, not outwards. PowerPoint will extend or contract the entire group – and because only half your group is showing, it will give the effect of growing or shrinking from just one end. Perfect!

How to make PowerPoint bar charts grow or shrink

Growing and moving (challenging)

If you have little patience with grouping, or transparency is just not for you, an alternative is available. This time around, there’s no need to create a duplicate. You apply a ‘Grow/Shrink’ animation to your existing bar (remembering to change the options to ‘vertical’). It will grow or shrink from both ends (damn). However, to compensate, apply a ‘Motion Path’ to play at the same time.

If you want your bar to shrink, you’ll want your motion path to move downwards. If you want it to grow, you need your motion path to move upwards. In either case, the aim is that it should keep the bottom of your shape glued to the x axis as it changes size. The size you’ve asked your bar to grow or shrink will affect how far you need your shape to move. Trial and error is the only way you can get this right, so zoom right in to your slide, hold down ‘Shift’ (to lock the direction of your motion path) and position the red ended arrow where it needs to be. One further thing: to make the animation run smoothly, you need to open up ‘Effect Options’ of your motion path and move the ‘Smooth start’ and ‘Smooth end’ sliders both down to zero – that should see you right.

How to make PowerPoint bar charts grow or shrink

In an ideal world, there would be a convenient ‘Grow/Shrink Bar in a Single Direction’ animation. Until then, try each of these methods for growing or shrinking your PowerPoint bar charts – then pick your favourite. Good luck!

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Written by

Kieran Chadha

Managing consultant

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  1. Image of Bruce Parry Bruce Parry says:

    All of this kind of growing, shrinking stuff is fabulously easy if you use the free PowerPoint plugin from PowerPointLabs – http://PowerPointLabs.info. No more adding extra shapes, trial and error with motion paths, etc., which can be beyond frustrating. As long as you use PowerPoint shapes you can get very creative moving way beyond just growing or shrinking columns in graphs.

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