Excel table or PivotTable?

In Excel there are tables and PivotTables. You may wonder why you’d need to create a table when the whole worksheet already looks like one. And you’ve heard about PivotTables and how complex they are. To be able to use either effectively, it helps to know what each of them does, and when to use one or the other.

An Excel table is simply a set of rows and columns in a worksheet that contains related data and is displayed in a specific table format. If you have a large list of data, it’s often useful to display that data in such a table. Not only does a table help you organize related data, it’s also helpful for calculating values and displaying totals and grand totals.

Data in an Excel table format

 By using a table, you can more easily:

  • Manage and analyze data independently of data outside the table
  • Apply one of many table formats to make data easier to view and scan
  • Add calculated columns to instantly calculate values
  • Use a Total row to quickly calculate and view totals
  • Filter data in table columns to display only data that you want to analyze

If you are looking to extract more meaningful information from your data, for example to find out which products are selling best over time, you may want to use a PivotTable instead of an Excel table. A PivotTable is an interactive table that quickly summarizes large amounts of numeric data, which you can then analyze in detail.

By using a PivotTable, you can more easily:

The same data in a PivotTable. The PivotTable Field List lets you arrange the data the way that you want.

  • Display the exact data you want to analyze
  • Pivot the data to view it from different angles
  • Focus on specific data details by expanding or collapsing data or by applying filters
  • Make data comparisons
  • Detect data patterns, relationships, and data trends

For more information about Excel tables or PivotTables, see the following videos or articles:

Video: Create an Excel table

Create or delete an Excel table in a worksheet

Video: Create a PivotTable report

Create or delete a PivotTable or PivotChart report

–Frederique Klitgaard