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Using Excel Pivot Tables: How to Begin

Make your data talk with Excel pivot tables
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Using Excel Pivot Tables: How to begin

By Microsoft Certified Trainer Melissa Esquibel

You may have heard that Microsoft Excel Pivot Tables are too difficult and should be attempted only by the most advanced users. Not true! Pivot Tables are easy to create and you can use them for everything from answering simple questions to performing complex analysis.

But, what are they really?

Delivering all the business data everybody needs is just a lot of bits and bytes … until it gives you information you can actually use. Pivot tables are the answer for extracting usable information from all your data., an IT encyclopedia and learning center, essentially defines a Pivot Table this way: A program tool that allows you to reorganize and summarize selected columns and rows of data in a spreadsheet or database table to obtain a desired report. A Pivot Table doesn't actually change the spreadsheet or database itself. In database lingo, to pivot is to turn the data (slice and dice) to view it from different perspectives.

Think of it this way: If you superimposed a map of the world onto a cube, each time you pivoted that cube, you'd be looking at a different face or slice of the map. It's the same basic concept here, except we'll be doing that with our data.

Before You Start Pivoting

First, you need to make sure your data are in good shape, so your Pivot Table can deliver the answers you want.

Identify the data in columns by assigning a title, such as a name or an account number.

Do not leave any rows or columns blank. Check for this anomaly by clicking any cell in your data and then pressing Ctrl A. Zoom out and see if you selected the whole table or if you left out parts. If you omitted any, chances are you have either a blank row or column.

Ensure data types are consistent in each column: all numbers, all text, all logicals (True, False).

When Microsoft® Excel® users hear the term "pivot tables," they usually run for the hills, believing that skill set is out of reach. Let us shatter that myth by showing you step-by-step:
  • How to prepare your data for use in a pivot table
  • The fastest method to create and modify a pivot table customized for your specific needs
  • How to use report filter pages, calculated fields and other powerful pivot table features
  • Simple ways to chart and graph your data into pictures that are clear and easy to understand.
On June 26, learn pivot tables from a true Microsoft expert!

Getting Started

Follow these steps:

  1. Click on any one cell in the middle of your data to create your Pivot Table.
  2. On the Insert tab, Tables group, click the first button on the left labeled Pivot Table.
  3. Verify that the dialog box shows the complete Table/Range.
  4. Click OK on the next dialog box.

That's it! The easiest thing that can go wrong is that you clicked in the wrong place. If you don't see your full range in the Table/Range field, hit Cancel, go back, and make sure you didn't click outside your data in a blank column or row or that you have not selected (highlighted) multiple cells.

With Excel Pivot Tables: Getting Your Data to Talk, our tech expert and Microsoft® Certified Trainer Melissa Esquibel will teach you:
  • Structuring data for use in pivot tables
  • Modifying pivot tables
  • Creating pivot charts
  • Advanced features: Report filter pages, calculated fields, working with GETPIVOT
Melissa will answer these questions and more:
  • Why pivot tables? What are they used for?
  • What cumbersome procedures can they replace?
  • Melissa EsquibelHow do you know if your data will work?
  • What kind of data can be pivoted?
  • How can you clean up datasets so you can pivot them?
  • What happens when the data changes?
  • Should you allow pivot tables to automatically update?
  • How can you create pivot table reports and pivot charts?
In about an hour, Melissa will take you from "why a pivot table" all the way to advanced features, and show you how to do it all in Excel with pivot tables. You'll have that data talking to you in no time. Register for Excel Pivot Tables now!
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