How to Create a Bullet Chart

Table of Contents

What is a Bullet Chart

Bullet Charts or Bullet Graphs have been invented by Stephen Few to replace heavy dashboard gauges and meters with some simple variations of a bar chart. Bullet charts can show either vertical columns or horizontal bars.

The bold bar represent the Actual value, and a small black bar is the Goal value. Bullet charts show how each Actual value is from its Goal value. Either the Actual or the Goal series could be omitted, or hidden through the legend.

Steps to Create a Bullet Chart

Start Visual Xtractor or Data Xtractor. Connect to a database. Create or design a SQL query. Run the query and check the results.

  1. Display and enable the Chart query builder.
  2. Select the eventual Actual numeric column as Progress ChartsBullet Bar.
  3. Select the eventual Goal numeric column as Progress ChartsBullet Goal.
  4. Select an optional column as Label.

Bullet Chart Demo Query

Look for the ready-to-use Bullet Bar Chart generated query under the Queries > Demo Queries > Charts > Bar Charts folder. Click on the “add demo queries” command link, if not there.

The demo query may not have the Inline Bullet Bar Chart, but we added it here as well, to see how similar they are.

Bullet Chart
Generated demo queries must work for any database, with no restriction. They use constant values generated on-the-fly and your database SQL engine, but do not depend on data from your tables, and never alter your database in any way.

Customize your Bullet Chart

  1. Show vertical columns instead of horizontal bars.
  2. Change the drawing style (to Light to Dark).
  3. Show staggered X axis labels.
  4. Show data labels as percent of completion compared to the goal.
  5. Remove gaps between bullets, for a more uniform background.
  6. Hide the Goal series using the legend items.
  7. You may also show the Actual bar as lollipop thin stick.
  8. A 3D view is also available.

Custom Bullet Chart


  • Creating Bullet Charts in Data Xtractor or Visual Xtractor is fast and easy: set one Actual numeric column as Bullet Bar and/or one Goal numeric column as Bullet Goal, with an optional column as Label.
  • All builtin powerful features of these chart type are common to most other charts: filtering series through the legend items, interactivity, monochrome or grayscale colors, rich axis and data label selections etc.
  • Switch to another builtin chart theme, or customize your own, for any possible color or other styles.