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How to make Waffle Charts in Excel that work EVERYWHERE!

Waffle Charts in Excel Online

In a previous post, we created a waffle chart in Excel using the easiest method. To use it as an object on any worksheet, we needed to use a linked picture. The problem is that linked pictures don’t work in Excel Online (I know!!! Super annoying, right!). So, in this post, I want to show you how to make Waffle Charts in Excel that work everywhere.

For this post, we will use a 10 x 10 grid, but you can use any grid you like.

This is the chart we are creating.

Final Waffle Chart

This method uses a lot of chart formatting, so there are quite a few steps. The steps aren’t complicated; there is just a lot of them.

Download the example file: Click the link below to download the example file used for this post:

Watch the video

Watch the video on YouTube

Setting up the data

The first step is to set up the data the right way.

Waffle Chart - Calculation
  • Value – Cell C2 – the value to display in the waffle chart
  • Row Max – Cell C4 – the maximum length of an individual row. As we are using a 10×10 waffle, the Row Max is 10.
  • Columns – Cells B7:B16 – a list that is the length of the number of columns. We have a 10 x 10 grid, so our columns display 10. But this could be any size you want.
  • Rows – Cells C7:C16 – the value to display in each row. The following formula is in cell C7 and then copied down to C16.

Add the chart

Now let’s add the chart.

Select all the values from B6 to C16 and click Insert > Charts > Recommended Charts.

Insert - Recommended Chart

Don’t worry, we are not going to use the Recommended Chart; it’s just an easy way to open the box we need.

In the Insert Chart dialog box, select the All Charts tab, then click Combo.

Change the Columns series to a Scatter and the Rows series to a Stacked Bar.

Insert charts dialog box

We only have a single value, so we could have used Clustered Bar instead. However, for the occasions we have multiple values, we will need the Stacked Bar.

The chart currently looks like this:

Chart after phase 1

Creating the waffle effect

Now time to create the waffle effect. Select one of the blue markers. Click the plus icon. Then click Error Bars > More Options...

Error Bars - More options

Select the horizontal error bar. Then, in the Format Error Bars pane, change the line to white, with a width of 1.5 pt.

Format error bars white

Next, click the Error Bar Options icon. Change the setting for the errors bars as follows:

  • Direction: Both
  • End Style: No Cap
  • Fixed Value: 10 (choose an alternative value if your grid is not 10 x 10)
Format errors style

Apply the same formatting to the vertical error bars.

Now, select the blue marker in the chart. In the Format Data Series pane, set the Marker to no fill and no line.

Marker - No fill no line

The charts now looks like this.

Chart after phase 2

Come on, be honest. You think I’ve lost it. But I promise you; it’s about to come good.

Set the chart axis

Let’s get the axis to display correctly.

  • Delete the secondary horizontal axis at the top
  • Delete the major gridlines
  • Select the vertical axis. In the Axis options, set the following:
    • Minimum: 0
    • Maximum: 10 (change this if you’re not using a 10 x 10 grid).
      Set vertical axis

Apply the same Minimum and Maximum to the horizontal axis.

Admit it, you doubted me for a second. But now, things are starting to come together.

Final Formatting

Let’s apply the final formatting elements:

  • Set the fill color for the background of the chart to grey
  • Set the fill color for the stacked bar chart series
  • In the Series Options for the Rows, change the Gap Width to 0%
  • Delete the Chart Title, Legend, Horizontal axis, and Vertical axis.
  • Resize the plot area to fill the chart area.

The chart now looks like this.

Waffle Chart after formatting

Adding the Label

To match the styling of the waffle we created last week, we can add a dynamic label.

Click Insert > Shapes > Text Box.

Add Text box

Draw the text box over the top section of the waffle chart.

Click the edge of the text box to highlight it. Then enter =$C$2 into the formula bar to link the value to the text box.

Link the text box to the cell

The Text box is now linked to the cell. Format the text box as you wish, and that’s it.

Final Waffle Charts in Excel Online

Test it out – Waffle charts in Excel online

If we change the number in cell C2, the chart updates. Magic!

Don’t forget that one of the goals was to make waffle charts that work in Excel online. If you test that out… it still works.


Excel Online does not have the full feature set of Excel Desktop. As a result, the easy waffle chart method using cells and conditional formatting doesn’t work as well as it should. Instead, using a stacked column chart and error bars provide a useful alternative that works in Excel Online. It requires a few more steps, but is more robust as a solution.

Related posts:

Headshot Round

About the author

Hey, I’m Mark, and I run Excel Off The Grid.

My parents tell me that at the age of 7 I declared I was going to become a qualified accountant. I was either psychic or had no imagination, as that is exactly what happened. However, it wasn't until I was 35 that my journey really began.

In 2015, I started a new job, for which I was regularly working after 10pm. As a result, I rarely saw my children during the week. So, I started searching for the secrets to automating Excel. I discovered that by building a small number of simple tools, I could combine them together in different ways to automate nearly all my regular tasks. This meant I could work less hours (and I got pay raises!). Today, I teach these techniques to other professionals in our training program so they too can spend less time at work (and more time with their children and doing the things they love).

Do you need help adapting this post to your needs?

I'm guessing the examples in this post don't exactly match your situation. We all use Excel differently, so it's impossible to write a post that will meet everybody's needs. By taking the time to understand the techniques and principles in this post (and elsewhere on this site), you should be able to adapt it to your needs.

But, if you're still struggling you should:

  1. Read other blogs, or watch YouTube videos on the same topic. You will benefit much more by discovering your own solutions.
  2. Ask the 'Excel Ninja' in your office. It's amazing what things other people know.
  3. Ask a question in a forum like Mr Excel, or the Microsoft Answers Community. Remember, the people on these forums are generally giving their time for free. So take care to craft your question, make sure it's clear and concise.  List all the things you've tried, and provide screenshots, code segments and example workbooks.
  4. Use Excel Rescue, who are my consultancy partner. They help by providing solutions to smaller Excel problems.

What next?
Don't go yet, there is plenty more to learn on Excel Off The Grid.  Check out the latest posts:

2 thoughts on “How to make Waffle Charts in Excel that work EVERYWHERE!

  1. Stefan says:

    Hi Mark, it is as easy, to make waffle charts with the x-y scatter chart.
    You can even make an parliament seats chart out of this method.

    kind regards,

    • Excel Off The Grid says:

      I’m assuming you’re using markers to make the squares? Yes, that will work too. But a little trickier to setup.

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