# 9.4 Building a bar chart

A classic way of displaying categories with corresponding values is a bar chart. It consists of rectangular bars, and they are proportional to the represented values. The main purpose is to visually compare those values.

We can use vertical or horizontal bars.

## How to do it…

We will use the `pgfplots` package. It’s for natively plotting in LaTeX with a convenient user interface. We will use it to produce a horizontal bar chart. Perform these steps:

```\documentclass{article}
```
2. Load the `pgfplots` package:
```\usepackage{pgfplots}
\pgfplotsset{width=7cm,compat=1.8}
```
3. Begin the document:
```\begin{document}
```
4. Begin a TikZ picture, which will be the container for the plot:
```\begin{tikzpicture}
```
5. Open an `axis` environment:
```  \begin{axis}
```
6. Give options to the axis:
``` [
title    = Contributions per category
at LaTeX-Community.org,
xbar,
y axis line style = { opacity = 0 },
axis x line       = none,
tickwidth         = 0pt,
enlarge y limits  = 0.2,
enlarge x limits  = 0.02,
nodes near coords,
symbolic y coords = {LaTeX, Tools,
Distributions, Editors},
]
```
```  \addplot coordinates { (57727,LaTeX) (5672,Tools)
(2193,Distributions) (11106,Editors) };
```
```  \addplot coordinates { (14320,LaTeX) (1615,Tools)
(560,Distributions)  (3075,Editors)  };
```
```  \legend{Topics, Posts}
```
10. End the `axis` environment, the TikZ picture, and the whole document:
```  \end{axis}
\end{tikzpicture}
\end{document}
```
11. Compile, and take a look: ## How it works…

The `\addplot` command does the plotting work; we called it with a set of specific coordinates. In our case, we used numeric values together with symbolic coordinates for the subjects.

We design the plot by options to the `axis` environment. This is the specific `pgfplots` environment with a lot of options for customizing. Here’s what we did:

1. We provided a title.
2. We set `xbar` as a style to get bars in the x direction. Specifically, this means that horizontal bars will be placed from y=0 to the x coordinate.
3. Omitting unnecessary diagram parts means less distraction. This helps in focusing and understanding the contents. Therefore, we:
• Chose a completely opaque line style for the y axis so that it won’t be printed
• Hid the x axis using axis x line = none
• Removed the x axis ticks by setting their width to 0
4. Then we enlarged the x and y limits a bit to get a better display.
5. We placed the nodes with values near the bars by enabling the `nodes near coords` option.
6. We defined symbolic coordinates as y values so that we could assign numeric (x) values to (y) subjects.

To sum up, `xbar` defined the plot style, and `symbolic y coords` let us use string values. The other axis options were just for the design. There are many more possible settings, so for further customization, refer to the `pgfplots` manual. You can open it by entering `texdoc pgfplots` in command prompt or visiting http://texdoc.net/pkg/pgfplots.

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