Organize and Find Data With Excel Pivot Tables

Businessman analyzing data
Marnie Burkhart / Getty Images

Pivot tables in Excel are a versatile reporting tool that makes it easy to extract information from large tables of data without the use of formulas.

Pivot tables are extremely user-friendly in that by moving, or pivoting, fields of data from one location to another using drag and drop we can look at the same data in a number of different ways.

This tutorial covers creating and using a pivot table to extract different information from one data sample (use this information for the tutorial).

01
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Enter the Pivot Table Data

Enter the pivot table data
© Ted French

The first step in creating a pivot table is to enter the data into the worksheet.

When doing so, keep the following points in mind:

  • At least three columns of data are needed to create a pivot table.
  • It is important to enter data correctly. Errors, caused by incorrect data entry, are the source of many problems related to data management.
  • Leave no blank rows or columns when entering the data. This includes NOT leaving a blank row between the column headings and the first row of data.

Enter the data into cells A1 to D12 as seen in the image above.

02
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Creating the Pivot Table

Create the pivot table
© Ted French
  1. Highlight cells A2 to D12 .
  2. Click on the Insert tab of the ribbon.
    Click on the down arrow at the bottom of Pivot Table button to open the drop-down list.
  3. Click on Pivot Table in the list to open the Create Pivot Table dialog box.
    By pre-selecting the data range A2 to F12, the Table/Range line in the dialog box should be filled in for us.
  4. Choose Existing Worksheet for the location of the pivot table.
    Click on the Location line in the dialog box.
  5. Click on cell D16 in the worksheet to enter that cell reference into the location line.
    Click OK.

A blank pivot table should appear on the worksheet with the top left corner of the pivot table in cell D16.

The Pivot Table Field List panel should open on the right-hand side of the Excel window.

At the top of the Pivot Table Field List panel are the field names (column headings) from our data table. The data areas at the bottom of the panel are linked to the pivot table.

03
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Adding Data to the Pivot Table

Adding data to the pivot table
© Ted French

Note: For help with these instructions see the image example above.

You have two choices when it comes to adding data to the Pivot Table:

  • Drag the field names from the Pivot Table Field List panel and drop them on the Pivot Table in the worksheet.
  • Drag the field names to the bottom of the Pivot Table Field List panel and drop them in the data areas.

The data areas in the Pivot Table Field List panel are linked to corresponding areas of the pivot table. As you add the field names to the data areas, your data is added to the pivot table.

Depending on which fields are placed in which data area, different results can be obtained.

Drag the field names to these data areas:

  • Total Sales to the Report Filter area
  • Region to the Column Labels area
  • Sales Rep to the Row Labels area
  • Orders to the Values area
  • Once completed, the Pivot Table should have the data laid out in the same order as the example in step 1 of this tutorial.
     
04
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Filtering the Pivot Table Data

Filtering the pivot table data
© Ted French

The Pivot Table has built-in filtering tools that can be used to fine-tune the results shown by the Pivot Table.

Filtering data involves using specific criteria to limit what data is displayed by the Pivot Table.

  1. Click on the down arrow next to the Region heading in the Pivot Table to open the filter's drop-down list.
  2. Click on the checkbox next to the Select All option to remove the check mark from all the boxes ​on this list.
  3. Click on the checkboxes next to the East and North options to add check marks to these boxes.
  4. Click OK.
  5. The Pivot Table should now show only the order totals for the sales reps that work in the East and North regions.
05
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Changing the Pivot Table Data

Pivot table.
© Ted French

To change the results shown by the Pivot Table:

  1. Rearrange the pivot table by dragging the data fields from one data area to another in the Pivot Table Field List panel.
  2. Apply filtering to get the desired results.

Drag the field names to these data areas:

  • Orders to the Report Filter area
  • Sales Rep to the Column Labels area
  • Region to the Row Labels area
  • Total Sales to the Values area
  • Click on the down arrow next to the Region heading in the Pivot Table to open the filter's drop-down list.
  • Click twice on the checkbox next to the Select All option to first add and then remove the check marks from all the boxes on this list.
  • Click on the checkbox next to the West option to add a check mark to this box.
  • Click OK.
  • The Pivot Table should now show the total sales for only those sales reps that work in the West region.
06
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Pivot Table Example

Excel Pivot Tables example.
© Ted French

Here's an example of how your pivot table might look. 

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