Excel pivot tables are very useful and powerful feature of MS Excel. They are be used to create instant summaries, reports and data analysis from your raw data.
In this page, learn all about how to create an Excel pivot table and customize it.
Table of Contents
What are Excel Pivot Tables?
A pivot table turns your data into report format. Here is a sample Pivot table from sales data, showing total sales by region.
How to create a Pivot Table?
We will use 2019 sales data of a fictional company. This data contains 466 rows of sales information in columns – Month, Salesman, Region, Product, No. Customers, Net Sales, Profit / Loss. Here is a preview of our data.
To create a pivot table showing totals sales by region, follow these steps.
- Select any cell in the data.
- Go to Insert ribbon and click “Pivot Table” button.
- Click ok on the next screen.
- You will be taken a new spreadsheet with blank Pivot Table canvas. Here, using the Pivot Table Fields panel set “Regions” field to row label area, “Products” to “Filter” area and “Net Sales” to values area. See below illustration.
Your pivot table will be ready. We can see that “West” is our best region. This is why Pivot tables are easy for finding answers to common business questions.
Two dimensional Pivots - Row & Column fields
You can add fields to both “Row” and “Column” label area of a pivot. Such Pivot Tables are normally called two dimensional pivots. Here is a demo of a two dimensional pivot table showing Total Sales by Region & Sales Person.
Multi-dimensional Pivots - Row & Column fields
You can also add more than one item to “Row” or “Column” label area. This creates a multi-dimensional Pivot Report. Here is one such pivot report showing total sales by Region, Sales Person & Product for selected months.
How to format Pivot Table values?
By default, numbers in Pivot Tables tend to just look like zip codes, without any proper formatting. This is easy to fix though. Simply right click on the values and use “Value Field Settings” to set up the formatting. To set currency formatting for our Total sales by region Pivot Report,
- Go to value field settings
- Click on Number Format button
- Set up the formatting to “Currency”
See this illustration.
Sorting in Excel Pivot Tables
You can easily sort pivot report by ascending or descending order of the value. To do this, just right click on the value, select Sort > and specify the order.
Here is an example of sorted pivot report of Number of customers by Sales person.
Filtering Excel Pivot Tables
You are looking at Regional total sales and want to know what the total is for just “RapidZoo” product. You can do this by filtering the pivot table. Excel offers two powerful ways to filter Pivot Tables
- Report filters
Both methods are illustrated below. Read on to learn how to use them.
Filtering with Report Filters
Report filter is a great way to restrict the data that is flowing to your pivot. To set them up, just add the field to “Filters” area in the fields panel. Now, using the filter button next to “Product”, select the product you want.
Here is a quick demo of report filters in action.
Filtering with Slicers
There are a ton of cool features in Excel Pivot Tables, but slicers are hands-down the best feature. At-least, that is what I think. They make filtering and ad-hoc data analysis a breeze.
A slicer is a visual filter. You can add a slicer on any field by right clicking on it from the fields panel. See the illustration “Adding filters to a pivot report” from above.
Once you have a slicer on Product, simply click on any product name to see the report for that.
Here is a quick demo of Pivot Table with slicers.
Other kinds of filtering - Value & Label Filters
Apart from report filters & Slicers, Pivot Tables also allow you to filter by a field or value.
Field or Label Filter: If you don’t want to see “Middle” region in a row label area, just click on the filter button next to “Row Labels” and uncheck the region. This type of filtering is called Label Filtering.
Value Filter: If you want to see just the top 2 regions by total sales, then you need a value filter. Simply go to filter button next to row labels and using value filters, apply a top 10 filter but set it to top 2 values by “Sum of net sales.”
Changing Calculations in Pivot Tables
The default calculation in Pivot Tables is SUM for number fields and COUNT for all others. But you can also customize the calculation easily. Just right click on the value field and choose different type of summary from right click menu.
Changing from SUM to AVERAGE in a Pivot Table
Here is a quick illustration of how to change calculation type from “SUM” to “AVERAGE”.
Pivot Table Layouts & Colors
By default, Excel Pivot Tables are in compact layout. This means, if you add multiple fields to row label area, they will all be shown in same column, with indentation.
You can change the layout of a pivot table to other formats too.
- Compact form (default)
- Outline form
- Tabular form
You can change the layout from Pivot Table Design ribbon.
Here is an example of same Pivot Table in both Compact and Tabular layouts.
Styling & colors of Excel Pivot Tables
You can apply any formatting to the pivot tables. MS Excel has some very good pivot table styles. Just select pivot table cells, go to Pivot Table Design ribbon. See below image to understand various options available.
Visualizing with Pivot Charts
You can use Pivot Charts to visualize the same information in a graphic format. Here is a sample Pivot Chart of Net Sales by Region & Product.
Steps for creating a Pivot Chart:
- Select any cell in the Pivot Table.
- Click on Insert > Chart or Analyze > Pivot Chart button.
- Insert the type of chart you want.
- You will get a Pivot Chart.
Interactive Pivot Chart with Slicers
Slicers make it incredibly easy to create interactive charts. Once you have a regular Pivot Chart, simply add a slicer to it (right click on the field in “Pivot Table Fields” area and select “Add as Slicer”). You now have an interactive Pivot Chart.
Here is a demo of interactive Pivot Chart.
Updating Pivot Tables (Refresh)
Whenever you have new data, just use “Refresh” button to update your Pivot Tables. You can find this button in multiple places.
- Data ribbon
- Pivot Table Analyze ribbon
- On right clicking any Pivot Table
- By pressing ALT+F5 (refreshes single pivot) or CTRL+ALT+F5 (refreshes all pivots)
What if you want to point Pivot to new data?
Select any cell in the Pivot Table and from Analyze ribbon, use the “Change Data Source” button. Point input data to a new source. As long as the new data has same fields, everything will work smoothly.
Pivot Tables in Excel - Complete video tutorial
I have made a 21 minute video explaining how to create, format, customize, visualize, filter and refresh Pivot Tables. This video is packed with many tricks, ideas and inspiration. Check it out below.
Download - Sample data & example Pivot Tables
Please click here to download the sample file for this article. It contains fictional sales data, several example pivot tables, charts and additional resources.
Examine the pivot table settings and use the data to learn more.
Now that you are familiar with Pivot Tables, explore these additional pages to learn more about data analysis & reporting.
- Pivot Table from multiple tables – Data Model & Relationships
- Number and Percentages in same Pivot
- 5 Pivot tables to try when you have too much data
- Sub-totals but only on one level
- Distinct count in Excel Pivot Tables
- How to use Report Filters
Intermediate & Advanced Users:
- All you need to know about Slicers
- 6 Time Saving Pivot Table Tricks
- Advanced Pivot Table Tricks
- Conditional formatting for Pivot Tables
- Introduction to GETPIVOTDATA
- Getting started with Power Pivot – Percentage of something calculation example
Recommended Websites & Books:
These are my favorite places to learn more about Pivot Tables.
- Excel Pivot Tables page on Contextures
- Pivot Table tips from Excel Jet
- 50 things you can do with Pivot Tables from MyExcelOnline
- Excel Pivot Table data crunching by Bill Jelen
- MS Excel Data Analysis and Business Modeling by Wayne Winston
- Excel Bible by J Walkenbach