Pivot Table in Excel
A pivot table is a summary of your data, packaged in a chart that lets you report on and explore trends based on your information. Pivot tables are particularly useful if you have long rows or columns that hold values you need to track the sums of and easily compare to one another.
More specifically, it lets you group your data together in different ways so you can draw helpful conclusions more easily. The “pivot” part of a pivot table stems from the fact that you can rotate (or pivot) the data in the table in order to view it from a different perspective. To be clear, you’re not adding to, subtracting from, or otherwise changing your data when you make a pivot. Instead, you’re simply reorganizing the data so you can reveal useful information from it.
How to Use Pivot Tables
Here are seven hypothetical scenarios where you’d want to use a pivot table.
That’s where the pivot table comes into play. Instead of having to manually search for and combine all the metrics from the duplicates, you can summarize your data (via pivot table) by blog post title, and voilà: the view metrics from those duplicate posts will be aggregated automatically.
If you have a list of employees in an Excel sheet, for instance, and next to the employees’ names are the respective departments they belong to, you can create a pivot table from this data that shows you each department name and the number of employees that belong to those departments. The pivot table effectively eliminates your task of sorting the Excel sheet by department name and counting each row manually.
You can easily customize a pivot table to fill empty cells with a default value, such as $0, or TBD (for “to be determined”). For large tables of data, being able to tag these cells quickly is a useful feature when many people are reviewing the same sheet.
How to Create a Pivot Table
Now that you have a better sense of what pivot tables can be used for, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of how to actually create one.
When you have all the data you want entered into your Excel sheet, you’ll want to sort this data in some way so it’s easier to manage once you turn it into a pivot table.
Once you’ve entered data into your Excel worksheet, and sorted it to your liking, highlight the cells you’d like to summarize in a pivot table.
After you’ve completed Step 1, Excel will create a blank pivot table for you. Your next step is to drag and drop a field — labeled according to the names of the columns in your spreadsheet — into the “Row Labels” area. This will determine what unique identifier — blog post title, product name, and so on — the pivot table will organize your data by. For example, let’s say you want to organize a bunch of blogging data by post title. To do that, you’d simply click and drag the “Title” field to the “Row Labels” area.
Once you’ve established what you’re going to organize your data by, your next step is to add in some values by dragging a field into the “Values” area. Sticking with the blogging data example, let’s say you want to summarize blog post views by title. To do this, you’d simply drag the “Views” field into the Values area.
The sum of a particular value will be calculated by default, but you can easily change this to something like average, maximum, or minimum depending on what you want to calculate. On a Mac, you can do this by clicking on the small “i” next to a value in the “Values” area, selecting the option you want, and clicking “OK.” Once you’ve made your selection, your pivot table will be updated accordingly. If you’re using a PC, you’ll need to click on the small upside-down triangle next to your value and select “Value Field Settings” in order to access the menu.