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How to create a Pivot Table in Excel

Excel's PivotTable feature is an incredibly powerful tool that makes it easy to tabulate and summarize data in your spreadsheets, particularly if your data changes a lot. If you are finding yourself writing lots of formulas to summarize data in Excel (using functions such as SUMIF and COUNTIF) then PivotTables can save you a lot of time and work and give you insights into your data that are otherwise too hard to discover. Not only that, but they also allow you to quickly change how your data is summarized with almost no effort at all. This lesson will show you how to create a simple PivotTable in Excel to summarize a set of daily sales data for a team of several sales people.

What you'll learn in this lesson

This lesson takes you through the following steps to build an Excel Pivot Table"

  1. Set up your data in Excel so it is in a format that is compatible with creating a PivotTable.
  2. Insert a PivotTable using that data into a new worksheet inside your workbook
  3. Add fields from your data to your PivotTable layout so you can see that data in summary form.
  4. Change the layout of your PivotTable report to reflect different views on the same data.

The data we'll work with in this example is an Excel table that has two months of daily sales data for a team of four sales people, broken down by product. The first few rows are shown below:

Excel, How to create a PivotTable, example sales data for analysis

In fact, this spreadsheet extends down for 688 rows of sales data, for all of January and February (you can download a copy of the spreadsheet here). So while you might look at the data in the table above and think "I could summarize that quickly by hand or with a few clever formulas", the likelihood is that it would all get too much - and would certainly take too long to do by hand. That's where PivotTables are by far the best solution - you'll be able to convert this data in under a minute, and be able to get different summaries with a few clicks of the mouse.

Getting started with PivotTables - make sure your data is ready

There are some important rules you need to follow if you want to create a PivotTable from your data:

  • Your data should be organized in columns with headings. These headings will be used when you create the PivotTable, and things will get very confusing without headings.
  • Make sure there are no empty columns or rows in your data. Excel is good at sensing the start and end of a data table by looking for empty rows and columns. If it finds an empty row or column, it assumes your data stops at that point.
    • A quick way to check if your data is ready to be used in a PivotTableis to click a single cell anywhere in the data table, then press SHIFT+* (or CTRL+SHIFT+8). This automatically selects the whole table. If any data remains unselected, you need to check for empty columns or rows within the data table.
    • Note that empty cells within your table are OK. What isn't OK is a whole row or a whole column of empty cells.
  • Consistent data in all cells.
    • If you have a date column, make sure all the values in that column are dates (or blank).
    • If you have a quantity column, make sure all the values are numbers (or blank) and not words.

At this point, if everything is looking OK, you're ready to move on to the next step.

Create a blank PivotTable

To start your PivotTable, follow these steps:

  • Click on a cell in the data table. Any cell will do, provided your data meets the rules outlined above. In fact, at this point it's all or nothing - select the whole table or just one cell in the table. Don't select a few cells, because Excel may think you are trying to create a PivotTable from just those cells.
    • Click on the Insert menu and click the PivotTable button, as shown below.

      Excel Insert PivotTable button for Excel 2013

    • Note the feature to see Recommended PivotTables. This is the fastest way to create a PivotTable, although you may still need to modify it to match your requirements. In this lesson, we'll choose the PivotTable button so you can learn how to build a PivotTable from scratch:
  • The following dialog box will appear. You'll use this to specify where the data for your pivot table lives (in an Excel table or range, or an external data source, such as a database) and where the pivot table you are creating will be placed.

    Excel, How to create a PivotTable, Create PivotTable dialog box

  • Note that the Table/Range value will automatically reflect the data in your table. You can click the icon on the right side of this field to change the Table/Range value if Excel guessed wrong. Alternatively, you can choose an external data source such as a database (this is an advanced topic and is outside the scope of this lesson).
  • Also notice that you can choose where the new PivotTable should go. By default, Excel will suggest a New Worksheet, which I think is the best choice unless you already know you want it on an existing worksheet.
    • Be aware that if your data changes a lot, or you find yourself changing the PivotTable layout, then refreshing the data in your PivotTable can result in the PivotTable changing shape and covering a larger area of the worksheet where you place it. When this happens, any data in that part of the spreadsheet will be overwritten and lost.
    • In other words, putting a PivotTable on the same page as your data or other information can cause you real headaches later on, which is why I recommend New Worksheet as the preferred option.

Once you've completed your selections, click OK. Assuming you chose the New Worksheet option, Excel will create a new worksheet in the current workbook, and place the blank PivotTable in the worksheet for you. You are now ready to design your PivotTable.

Designing your PivotTable layout.

You should now be looking at a new worksheet that is ready for you to set up your PivotTable.

  • You'll notice see three separate elements of the PivotTable on the screen:
    • First is the PivotTable itself, which is on the left. This will be blank to start with.

      Excel, How to create a PivotTable, blank PivotTable report

  • On the right you'll see the PivotTable Fields section which contains the Field Name section and the field layout area.
    • The Field Name section should show the column headings from your data table. If not, you may need to check that you selected the whole data table before starting.
    • If you don't see this section, make sure to click inside the PivotTable on the left. If you click on any cell that is outside the PivotTable on the left, the PivotTable Fields box will disappear. You can make it reappear simply by clicking inside the PivotTable report again.

      Excel PivotTables - setting up your field layout

  • Below the fields are four separate boxes. You'll create your pivot table layout by dragging fields into those boxes. You can drag multiple fields into each box, although this may make your pivot table large and complicated.
    • Filters: this allows you to put a field outside the table itself and use it to filter the data in the table. In our case, you could drag the Item field in here. The filter will then contain a dropdown of all the different item listed in that column in our data.
    • Rows: This will be used to show the data you have in rows. You could drag Salesperson into the Rows box - all the sales people will then be listed down the site.
    • Columns: This is similar to the Rows box. If you drag an item in here, the values will be listed along the top of the table. In our example, we will put Items here (rather than in the Filters box).
    • Values: Finally, the Values box is where your data will be collated into the actual report. You should drag items with numeric values into this box. Excel will try to calculate them. In our example we'll use Quantity but we could also use Sales.
  • Tip: You can let Excel decide where to put your fields by simply checking each field you want to include. Excel will do its best to decide where to place them. However, Excel sometimes guesses wrong, so manual selection is likely to be faster.
  • Here's how I configured the fields for the example above:

    Excel Pivot Table - with PivotTable Field selected and placed

  • The PivotTable report that is generated from these selections looks like this:

    Excel finished PivotTable example, reporting items sold by salesperson

  • At this point, the PivotTable has created a table that shows the number of each product sold by each sales person on each day.

Changing your PivotTable

So far, we've seen how quickly a PivotTable can create a report that would have taken hours to produce by hand. Now, let's try changing the PivotTable to show the report another way, i.e. show Products down the side, and Sales people across the top.

  • Click inside your PivotTable report (i.e. the report shown above). The PivotTable Field List should reappear.
  • Change the layout of your PivotTable to look like this:

    Excel PivotTable - rearranging field layout in your PivotTable.

  • When you make this change, you'll see your PivotTable change instantly to reflect the new layout (unless you chose Defer Layout Update - this feature is useful if you have a lot of data, and changing the layout of your PivotTable takes a long time to recalculate)

    Excel finished PivotTable example, reporting items sold by product

The speed with which you were able to make this change demonstrates the real power of PivotTables - the ability they give you to tabulate data quickly, and then rearrange your data into different reports almost instantaneously.

Hopefully this lesson has given you what you need to get started with PivotTables. If you have any questions or comments about this lesson, or specific scenarios you need help with, you can either leave a comment using the form below, visit our PivotTable page here for more lessons.

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Add a comment to this lesson

Comments on this lesson

Agriculture Research

Simple and very helpful script
Thanks, it helped a lot

Thank you!

I am amazed of the quality of this tutorial. You fully deliver the goods in five minutes! Please do keep your quality as high as this, and you will prosper.

A side note:
This cannot be done easily in oracle sql using the pivot statement, because Oracle is unable to make it dynamic.
Excel wins this round hands down :)

Pivot Table

Is there a LINK I can use for practice........?

Thanks

No totals displayed for a

No totals displayed for a calculated field

The Sum of Field2 calculates how many times the value in Breach dips below zero but does not show the sub-total.
Why? please HELP!!!

Hi Sandra

Hi Sandra

Can you provide more information? If you want to send an example of your spreadsheet for me to look at, use our Contact Form to get in touch and I'll reply with an email address that you can send the example to.

Regards

David

Pv file report

great ideas, i need to learn more on Pv lessons

Worked example file now available

Hi Sumit

The spreadsheet I used to create this lesson is now available to download from the top of this page. Hope it helps!

David

The downloadable spreadsheet

The downloadable spreadsheet from the top right of the page does not contain the same data from your tutorial...

Fixed!

Hi Rachael

Sorry about that - I've now fixed it. Thanks for pointing it out.

Regards

David

Format

How would keep the format you've given to the table after changing what it shows? I've changed the alignment while wraping text, but after filtering with a criteria it goes to the same format it had when first created, it does not keep it.

Amazing post - good prerequisite for things to come

Hey,

great article. I have referred several of my colleagues to this as a starting point. As the pivot table functionality has been improved so much since the old days (Excel 2003) the basic usage of it is really a prerequisite to use the "newer" tools like PowerPivot (which is so amazing as it drastically reduces time flattening your data as preparation for pivots).

Some of my colleagues stated that it took them a little longer than 5 minutes, but 10 or even 15 minutes of course is still fine for a topic with that complexity.

ms excel course online

If you want to learn Microsoft Excel, there are several places on the net that offer online courses. The one I personally like is http://www.onlinecourses.trainedge.co.in/ms-excel-training-with-microsof.... They have videos and pdf course packs like most online course. But they also have lots of assignments you can use to practice the concepts. There are simulated exercises also which are basically guided practice sessions and very helpful.

How to Learn Pivot Table in Excel 2010?

I am a new operator. I know how to work Excel but I can't operate Pivot Table. I want to create a web data/date sheet for my official work. I request to you please give me all of note and information that I can create data sheet and see all of data table easily.

This lesson should cover it

Hi Moshe

Thanks for your comment. I believe this lesson should have everything you need to know about setting up a Pivot Table in Excel 2010. If you have any specific questions after reviewing the lesson, please feel free to post them in a new comment.

Regards

David

Thanks a Lot.

Thanks a Lot.

A simple and easy understandable method of teaching by you is highly appreciatred

Simply superb

Thanks for simple way teaching it, it helped me.

for pivot table

Thanks for providing me this page . simly & great page

Pivot Table introduction

Very useful introduction to the use and set up of pivot tables .

Very easily explained ,

Very easily explained , Thanks a lot for your contribution.

Excellent Excel

I'm on excel from last 5 years, during my studies & now at work. It has got plenty of features, which I'm yet to learn & you're the one helping me with it.
Thank you!!

I have some doubts

First of all thanks for the tutorial. I tried applying the pivot table on my data but didn't find what I was looking for.
In the attached file is the data of my purchases from these creditors, now I want to know how much I have purchased from each creditor also I want the other figures mentioned in the headings, can I do that using Pivot Tables ?

Yes, a PivotTable is perfect for this

Hi Vaibhav

Your data is structured perfectly for what you're trying to do with a PivotTable.

  • Click on a cell anywhere inside your data table
  • Follow the steps above to create your PivotTable
  • Add the Name of Creditor field to the Row Labels area.
  • Add each of the columns you want to analyse to the Values area (Gross Total, Oms Purchases etc)
  • If the PivotTable gives you the Count of any of these columns, then click each field and choose Sum in the Summarize value field by section.

That should give you what you are looking for.

David

lesson on pivot table creation

It's simply superb. This explanation is easy to understand, also quick and effective. Keep publishing. Thank you.

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