Displaying Text Values in Pivot Tables without VBA

Posted on May 7th, 2012 in Excel Howtos , Huis , Pivot Tables & Charts , Posts by Hui - 14 comments

Pivot Tables take tables of data and allow the user to summarise and consolidate the data at the same time. This is a great and very fast method of analysis but is restricted to handling mathematical functions on the value field resulting in numerical summaries.

It is possible to combine Custom Number Formats with the Pivot Table to produce Text based answers.


Download some sample data and follow along here: Sample File.

On the Simple Example worksheet

You will see that we have a sample table consisting of 5 fields, Names, Email, Opened and Date

Next add a numerical field “Open”, to convert the Opened field to a value

In F2: =(D2=”Yes”)*1 and copy F2 down

We can now add a Pivot table to the expanded table:

Select the area A1:F9

Insert, Pivot Table, Pivot Table

Select a Table or Range: ‘Basic Example’!$A$1:$F$9

Existing Worksheet: Location: I2

Once the pivot table is added, the PivotTable Field List will be displayed

Drag the Date field to the Column Labels

Drag the Email field to the Row Labels

Drag the Open field to the Sum Values

The Pivot Table will low look like this:

We can hide the Grant Total Row and Column by right clicking on the Grand Total Heading and select Remove Grand Total.

We will now add a Custom Number format to the Sum of Open area

Select the Sum of Open area

Right Click and select Format Cells

On the Number Tab, Select the Custom Category and enter a Format code: [>=1]“Yes”;[=0]“No”;

Anywhere that a value >0 occurs the word “Yes” will appear and where ever it is 0 a “No” will be shown.

You can do any of the normal Pivot Table, Filtering, Grouping etc activities and the results will change accordingly.

You can now format the Pivot Table as desired.


More Complex Results

We can use the Custom Number Formats to define up to 3 Text Values to either individual or Ranges of results.

Goto the Complex Example worksheet.

This Pivot table has used a Custom Number Format of: [<=9]“Low”;[<=19]“Medium”;”High”

This Custom Number Format assigns a Value of Low to a Sum of Rank <= 9, a Value of Medium to a Sum of Rank <= 19 and High to the remainder of the values

The Pivot Table also has a Conditional Format applied to the Sum of Rank area which applies a Color to the Font of the cells.



The limitations of this technique are in that a Custom Number Format can only display 3 Conditional formats using the [ ] parameters.

There are a number of techniques that can expand on this using VBA and these are discussed below:


Displaying Text Values in Pivot Tables with VBA

Robert Mundigl has written a great article on using Text within Pivot Tables using VBA

Emulate Excel Pivot Tables with Texts in the Value Area using VBA



You can read more about Custom Number Formats here:

Here at Chandoo.org:










You can read more about Conditional Formatting here:








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14 Responses to “Displaying Text Values in Pivot Tables without VBA”

  1. sam says:

    Its possible to display up to 4 text values.

    Have a look at the screen shot of an example that I had posted way back at the EHA and figure out how its done !


  2. ruve1k says:

    With Excel 2010 you can use Conditional Formatting to apply custom number formats which can display text. (In older versions you can only modify text color and cell background color, but not number formats.) Using CF allows for an even larger number of different display values.

  3. soumya says:

    Thanks, this helps. But how do you do it for multiple values where there is a huge amount of non repeating  text? 

  4. [...] Pivot Tables take tables of data and allow the user to summarise and consolidate the data at the same time. This is a great and very fast method of analysis but is restricted to handling mathematical functions on the value field resulting in numerical summaries. – read more [...]

  5. […] Read more here: Displaying Text Values in Pivot Tables without VBA […]

  6. Jon Gali says:

    There is a very good way actually for handling text inside values area.
    First you create a special column on the very left side and call it ID, and put unique ID (numbers only), and then create a pivot table with:

    Row Labels and Column labels as you like, and in the Values labels use the unique ID number.

    Move the unique ID number (copy paste) somewhere to the right and use vlookup to load the data you need using the ID as reference.

    It is a bit longer way but for me it works perfectly to combine values as you like in any moment.

    hope helps.



  7. Linda says:

    Thank you! I finally understand pivot tables thanks to your clear, concise explanations and examples.

  8. Danzi says:

    Good Day. This is exactly what i have been looking for. However when i try it on my pivot table or even when i try to recreate this exercise using the sample worksheet, i get this error:

    “Microsoft Excel cannot use the number format you typed. Try using one of the built-in number formats.”

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