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An introduction to Excel pivot tables

Pivot tables are among the most useful features available in Excel, which can be used to build reports for larger amounts of data.

What is a pivot table?

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Pivot tables sumarise data from larger sets of data such as spreadsheets or databases, in the form of statistics and aggregations. Often used in data processing, they allow you to rearrange (pivot) statistics to bring different information to the fore.

For example, a spreadsheet detailing every item sold from a clothing retailer, including information such as which branch sold the items, the styles, sizes, prices and dates they were sold on can be very difficult to read and understand in a flat table. A pivot table can summarise that data, and present it in different ways. For example, you can see the number of items sold on a specific date, or how many items of a specific style were sold. With pivot tables, you can explore and view your data in different ways.

Creating a pivot table

Pivot tables are straightforward to create and don’t rely on any formulae. That means even data that has been converted from PDF to Excel from sites such as https://pdftables.com/ can be incorporated into a pivot table.

You can set up a pivot table from the Insert menu to summarise the data in your spreadsheet. Then it’s a matter of following a few simple steps to choose the data you want to analyse, and where you want to place your pivot table.

From there, you can build out your pivot table, by selecting the fields you want and assign them to different areas depending on how you want your information displayed.

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The Microsoft Office support site has a simple tutorial and video showing the basics of how to create a pivot table from your Excel spreadsheet. It includes links to tutorials on creating pivot charts and more advanced pivot tables that deal with more than one table.

The benefits of using pivot tables

Pivot tables are easy to set up, allow you to view your data in multiple ways, and can even highlight problems in the data they’re covering. They include filters and charts and can find patterns and trends. It provides a way of summarising and analysing your data and presenting it in a way that can help you make more informed decisions.

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