Introduction to Slicers – What are they, how to use them, tips, advanced techniques & interactive reports using Excel Slicers

Posted on June 24th, 2015 in Learn Excel , Pivot Tables & Charts - 27 comments

Slicers are one of my favorite feature in Excel. And here is a quick demo to show why they are my favorite.

Introduction to Slicers - what are they, how to use them, tips, advanced techniques and formatting - Excel Pivot Tables & Slicers - Tutorial

Slicers – what are they?

Slicers are visual filters. Using a slicer, you can filter your data (or pivot table, pivot chart) by clicking on the type of data you want.

For example, let’s say you are looking at sales by customer profession in a pivot report. And you want to see how the sales are for a particular region. There are 2 options for you do drill down to an individual region level.

  1. Add region as report filter and filter for the region you want.
  2. Add a slicer on region and click on the region you want.

With a report filter (or any other filter), you will have to click several times to pick one store. With slicers, it is a matter of simple click.

See this demo:

Demo of Excel slicers

Download Slicer Examples Workbook

This post is very long and has many examples. Please click here to download slicer examples demo workbook. It contains all the examples shown in this post and a fun surprise too.

How to insert a slicer?

Note: Slicers are available only in Excel 2010 and above.

Adding a slicer in Excel 2010:

In Excel 2010, you can add a slicer only to pivot tables. To insert a slicer, go to either,

  • Insert ribbon and click on Insert Slicer
  • or Options ribbon (PivotTable Tools) and click on Insert Slicer

Adding a slicer in Excel 2013 / 2016:

In Excel 2013 and above, you can add a slicer to either pivot tables or regular tables.

Adding slicers to regular tables:

When you add a slicer to regular Excel tables, they just act like auto-filters and filter your table data. To add a slicer to regular table, use Insert ribbon > Insert Slicer button.

Adding slicers to Pivot tables:

To add a slicer, you can do either of these things:

  • Right click on pivot table field you want and choose “add as slicer”
    Add as slicer from Pivot table fields list
  • Use either analyze or insert ribbon to add the slicer.
    Insert a slicer from Pivot Table Analyze Ribbon

Single vs. Multi-selection in Slicers

You can select a single item or multiple items in slicers. To multi-select,

  • If the items you want are together, just drag from first item to last.
  • If the items you want are not together, hold CTRL key and click on one at a time.

Creating interactive charts with slicers

Since slicers talk to Pivot tables, you can use them to create cool interactive charts in Excel. The basic process is like this:

  1. Set up a pivot table that gives you the data for your chart.
  2. Add slicer for interaction on any field (say slicer on customer’s region)
  3. Create a pivot chart (or even regular chart) from the pivot table data.
  4. Move slicer next to the chart and format everything to your taste.
  5. And your interactive chart is ready!

Demo of interactive chart using slicer:

Here is a quick demo.

Creating interactive charts using Excel slicers - demo

Linking multiple slicers to same Pivot report

You can add any number of slicers to a pivot report. When you add multiple slicers, each of them plays a role in telling the pivot table what sub-set of data to use for calculating the numbers.

Multiple slicers linked to one pivot table - explanation

Linking one slicer to multiple pivot tables

You can also link a single slicer to any number of pivot reports. This allows us to build very powerful, cross-filtered & interactive reports using Excel.

To connect multiple pivot tables to single slicer, follow these steps.

  1. Optional: Give names to each of the pivot tables. To name the pivot tables, click anywhere in the pivot, go to Analyze ribbon and use the pivot table name field on top-left to give it a name.
    1. If you don’t name your pivot tables, Excel will give them default names like PivotTable73. This can be confusing once you have more than a few pivot tables.
  2. Right click on the slicer and go to Report Connections (in Excel 2010, this is called as PivotTable connections).
    Report connections - linking slicers to more than one pivot table report
  3. Check all the pivot tables you want. Click ok.
    Linking multiple pivot tables to a slicer in Excel - how to

Now both pivot tables will respond to the slicer. See this demo:

Slicer linked to multiple pivot tables - Excel demo

Linking slicers to more than one chart

You can use the same approach to link one slicer to more than one chart (pivot chart or regular one).

See this demo:

Multiple interactive charts with slicers - demo

You can examine this chart in detail in the Slicer Examples workbook.

Capturing slicer selection using formulas

While slicers are amazing & fun, often you may want to use them outside pivot table framework. For example, you may want to use slicers to add interactivity to your charts or use them in your dashboard.

When you want to do something like that, you essentially want the slicers to talk to your formulas. To do this, we can use 2 approaches.

  • Dummy (or harvester) pivot table route
  • CUBE formulas route

Dummy pivot table route

This is the easiest way to capture slicer selection into a cell. Using a dummy pivot table, we can find out which items are selected in slicers and use them for some other purpose, like below:

Capturing slicer selection with Excel formulas - demo

The process is like this:

  • Let’s say you want to know which profession is picked up in the slicer (so that you can use it in some formulas or charts).
  • Create another pivot table.
  • Add the profession field to row labels area.
  • Link the slicer to this new pivot table as well (using report connections feature of slicer)
  • Now when you click on the slicer, both original pivot and this new dummy pivot change.
  • Access row labels like regular cells in your formulas to find out which slicer item is selected.

See this illustration to understand how to set up the formulas:

How to find out which items are clicked on slicers using Excel formulas - Explanation

 

CUBE Formula approach:

This is relevant only if your slicers are hooked up to a data model thru something like Power Pivot, SAS Cubes or ThisWorkbookModel in Excel 2013 or above.

To find out slicer selection, we need to use CUBERANKEDMEMBER() Excel formula like this:

=CUBERANKEDMEMBER(“ThisWorkbookDataModel”, Name_of_the_slicer , item_number)

Let’s say you have a slicer on Area field, and its named Slicer_Area (you can check this name from Slicer properties)

To get the first item selected in the slicer, you can use CUBERANKEDMEMBER formule like this:

=CUBERANKEDMEMBER(“ThisWorkbookDataModel”, Slicer_Area, 1)

This will return the first item selected on slicer. If there is no selection (ie you have cleared the filter on slicer), the Excel will return “All”.

Bonus tip: You can use =CUBESETCOUNT(Slicer_Area) to count the number of items selected in slicer.

Bonus tip#2: By combining CUBESETCOUNT and CUBERANKEDMEMBER formulas, you can extract all the items selected in the slicer easily.

Please download Cube Formula Slicer Selection example workbook to learn more about this approach.

Note: this file works only in Excel 2013 or above.

Formatting slicers

Slicers are fully customizable. You can change their look, settings and colors easily using the slicer tools options ribbon.

Slicer formatting - Demo

Here is a quick FAQ on slicer formatting:

Q. I have too many items in slicer. How to deal with this problem?

Simple. See if you can set up your slicer in multiple columns. You can also adjust the height and width of slicer buttons to suit your requirements. If your slicer is still too big, you can adjust the font size of slicer by creating a new style.

Setting up slicers in multiple columns etc.

Q. I don’t like the blue color of slicer. What do I do?

You can switch to another color scheme. Just go to Slicer Tools Options ribbon and pick a style you want.

Slicer styles and colors

Pro tip: You can create your own style to customize all aspects of a slicer.

Q. I don’t like the title on slicer. Can I get it rid of it?

Yes you can. Right click on the slicer and go to “Slicer Settings”. Uncheck display header option to remove the header & clear filter button.

Removing the headers & items with no data in slicers

Q. My slicer keeps showing old products (or categories etc.) that are no longer part of data after refresh. What do I do?

Simple. Right click on the slicer and choose “Slicer settings”. Check Hide items with no data option.

Q. I want to make my slicers look good. But I don’t know where to start…

Well, check out the beautiful examples for slicer formatting by Mike Alexander. You might get some inspiration.

Slicers vs. Report Filters

In a way slicers are like report filters, but way better. (Related: Introduction to Pivot Table Report Filters)

There are few key differences between both.

  • Report filters are tied to single pivot tables. Slicers can be linked to any number of pivots.
  • Report filters are clumsy to work with. Slicers are very easy to use.
  • Report filters may not work very well in a touch screen environment. Slicers are great for touch screen UIs.
  • Report filters take up one cell per filter. Slicers take up more space on the worksheet UI.
  • Report filters can be automated with simple VBA. Slicers require a bit more code to automate.
  • You can access report filter values using simple cell references. Slicer values can be extracted using either dummy pivot tables or CUBE formulas, both of which require extra effort.

Slicers & Compatibility

Slicers are compatible with Excel 2010 & above versions of Excel.

If you create a workbook in Excel 2010 (or above) with slicers and email it to a friend using Excel 2007, they will see an empty box where slicer should be.

Slicers work on desktop & web versions of Excel in the same way.

Download Slicer Examples Workbook

Please click here to download slicer examples demo workbook. It contains all the examples shown in this post and a fun surprise too.

Also download the Cube formulas approach for slicer selection extraction workbook to learn that technique.

Additional Resources to learn about Slicers

If you like slicers and want to learn creative ways to use them in your work, check out below examples:

Do you use Slicers? What are your favorite tips about slicers?

As mentioned earlier, slicers are one of my favorite features of Excel. I use them liberally in my dashboards, charts & workbooks.

What about you? Do you use slicers? When do you use them? What are your favorite tips when it comes to using slicers? Please share in the comments area.

27 Responses to “Introduction to Slicers – What are they, how to use them, tips, advanced techniques & interactive reports using Excel Slicers”

  1. Great article!
    If you want to learn a bit more about using slicers in VBA, head over here:
    http://jkp-ads.com/articles/slicers03.asp

  2. XLarium says:

    Hi

    I downloaded cube-formula-slicer-selection.xlsx.
    Why is 'Report Connections' grayed out?

  3. Carlos Gonzalez says:

    Great article!! Thank you very much... This post is one of the most helpful for my job!

  4. TKSSKT says:

    Great Introduction. Thanks very much.

  5. Mando says:

    Wow! trying to use this on the reports that I have now. I really liked that Quantity and Amount Bar graph used on the pivot-multi tab, but for the life of me, I can't seem to replicate it from scratch. Help please?

  6. Abhilash VK says:

    This is awesome! I will favorite this page in my blog, http://www.exceltoxl.com

  7. MrXInDowntown says:

    Since I've known slicers about 2-3 yrs ago, I've pretty much used them in every damn report I do. Everyone that sees it for the first time is like "This is the best thing ever. Did you do that using excel or something else?" 😀 My bosses are so used it that when they see a report from someone else that doesn't have slicers they send it to me to redo it :).

  8. MrXInDowntown says:

    Couple of tips:-
    Tip 1:
    If for lack of space or say you want ability to search within a filter due to numerous values being present but still want it to connect to multiple pivot tables or charts then
    1. Setup a pivot table with just the report filter
    2. Create a slicer with the same field and tie that to all the pivot tables/charts that you want.
    3. Just place it some out of sight.
    Now you have a dropdown with all your values with search option plsu it is also connected to all your charts and pivot tables.

    TIP 2:
    In Excel 2013, slicers can be used with just plain tables as well. Not limited to pivot tables.

  9. Paulo says:

    Congrats!

    Nice content : )

  10. indzara says:

    Very comprehensive. Explained in an extremely simple way. I have been using Slicers for a while, but still learnt new things from this post. Thanks for sharing. Best wishes.

  11. excel says:

    Awesome Explanation !!

  12. Raj says:

    I have joined this blog recently. Brilliant tools are available that I started using in my day to day work. Brilliant site. Thanks heaps.

  13. […] Read the full article here: Introduction to Slicers – What are they, how to use them, tips, advanced techniques & interact… […]

  14. Kim says:

    Oh wow. I've only just started using Excel 2010 and had no idea this even existed. It makes dynamic charts so much easier!

  15. Clare says:

    You are my Hero! I am working with PowerPivot due to the huge amount of data I have and could not use my usual tricks to get the scatter chart title to change. For some reason the CUBE function wouldn't work (who knows why, I don't have time to dig into it now) but your "dummy" solution did.
    thankyouthankyouthankyou!
    Clare

  16. Stevie D says:

    On a normal PivotTable filter, you can choose whether to allow multiple items to be selected or not. Is that possible with slicers (in Excel 2010)? I've had a look through the options and not found a way to do it yet!

  17. Rushabh Gala says:

    Very comprehensive note on slicer. I haven't yet used ms excel 2010, but learnt Slicer tool very well

  18. Arif says:

    How should I apply Slicer in excel 2010 version, not able find options
    as directed, could you please tell me that step by step

  19. Mary Ellen says:

    I have a longitudinal line graph with the count of exams scored at each level(1-4). I need a longitudinal line graph that shows the percentage for each level. I made my pivot with the count in the field settings with a calculation of % of row total. This works great until you add a slicer fo that you can look at one level at a time. When I do this, it shows as 100% because it seems to lose the rest of the row calculations. How can I set it up to show the percent. I do not have the option of adding it to my data table. I am using straight Pivot, not PowerPivot.

  20. Carla says:

    Hi, thanks for these tips. Is it possible to link a slicer to *different data sets*? All my data sets have a "year_opened" and "month_opened" fields, and I'd like do a single filter and update everything at once. Is that possible?

  21. Rafael says:

    Hi,
    Can someone tell me how to format a date field in a slicer to tell July 2016 instead of 07/31/2016?

    Thanks in advance.

  22. blk says:

    Great post - easily explainable for non excel whiz.

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