Sunburst Chart

Creating a sunburst chart will be this year one of the most exciting innovations of Office 2016. Today’s article will show all the advantages of this very useful application. However, before we start, we have to note that been waiting for years to get a well usable kind of chart instead of the comparatively poor supply.

We have had our wish fulfilled now. So let’s see what a sunburst chart is good for!

Sunburst Chart and Hierarchy visualizations

All right! Let’s start with the basics! What can we consider hierarchical data visualization? In the picture below, we see a bookstore’s yearly income in the form of a chart. This will compose the bases of the sunburst chart. 

We have placed the type of books to divide the particular main categories (for example, Tutorials, Children’s Books) into subcategories. After creating the chart, we will see how large a percentage the category “Tutorials” represents but also its subcategories.


In our example, we will pay attention to the division of the children’s books. We can see from the chart that the income from these types of books were ($16000 + $ 12000 + $ 8900 + $ 14046 + $ 12000) = altogether $ 63038.

Creating Sunburst Chart – Data Visualization


Let’s take a look at the chart in this picture. In the innermost ring, we marked all the income from children’s books with light blue color.

From the chart containing only the raw data, we could not have seen right away that children’s books take up one-third of all the income. Amongst other things, this is one of the advantages of data visualization.

The second ring is the subcategory level. For example, within the category of children’s books, the “Baby books” were the most profitable (we know this because this has the biggest area). Therefore, sales within the category can be seen on the outer ring (if applicable).

You can analyze the whole chart following this logic. For example, if you examine the dark green slice “Tutorials” on the innermost ring, the “How to?” category had the most sales based on the former logic. And within that category, the Photoshop teaching-related books had the most sales in the given time period.

We hope that this much help was enough so that you can use this type of chart with ease from now on.

Limitations of the Sunburst Chart

We can’t clearly decide whether the following news is good or bad. This answer can only be found in the 2016 version of Excel. If we try to open the just now made demonstration with an earlier Excel, we get an error message.

This could pose a problem for those (in our opinion, most of the users) who do not have the newest Office edition. However, we have to note that there are tricks by which we can create with the older Excel versions very similar representation.

In the next article, we will introduce these alternatives. If you have the newest Office, you can create a sunburst chart. Download the worksheet here.