Introduction to Slicers – What are they, how to use them, tips, advanced techniques & interactive reports using Excel Slicers
Slicers are one of my favorite feature in Excel. And here is a quick demo to show why they are my favorite.
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.
- Add region as report filter and filter for the region you want.
- 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:
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”
- Use either analyze or insert ribbon to add the slicer.
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:
- Set up a pivot table that gives you the data for your chart.
- Add slicer for interaction on any field (say slicer on customer’s region)
- Create a pivot chart (or even regular chart) from the pivot table data.
- Move slicer next to the chart and format everything to your taste.
- And your interactive chart is ready!
Demo of interactive chart using slicer:
Here is a quick 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Right click on the slicer and go to Report Connections (in Excel 2010, this is called as PivotTable connections).
- Check all the pivot tables you want. Click ok.
Now both pivot tables will respond to the slicer. See this 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:
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:
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:
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.
Slicers are fully customizable. You can change their look, settings and colors easily using the slicer tools options ribbon.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Create a fully dynamic dashboard using Pivot Tables & slicers
- Use slicer as scenario selection mechanism
- Slicers + charts for awesome user experience – case study & one more
- Related: Introduction to Excel 2013 Relationships & Data Model
- Related: Introduction to Excel Pivot Tables
- Related: Introduction to Excel Report Filters
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.
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