What Is an Excel Pivot Table? - dummies

By Michael Alexander

A pivot table is a robust tool that allows you to create an interactive view of your dataset, commonly referred to as a pivot table report. With a pivot table report, you can quickly and easily categorize your data into groups, summarize large amounts of data into meaningful analyses, and interactively perform a wide variety of calculations.

Pivot tables get their name from the way they allow you to drag and drop fields within the pivot table report to dynamically change (or pivot) perspective and give you an entirely new analysis using the same data source.

Think of a pivot table as an object you can point at your dataset. When you look at your dataset through a pivot table, you can see your data from different perspectives. The dataset itself doesn’t change, and it’s not connected to the pivot table. The pivot table is simply a tool you’re using to dynamically change analyses, apply varying calculations, and interactively drill down to the detail records.

The reason a pivot table is so well suited for reporting is that you can refresh the analyses shown through the pivot table by simply updating the dataset that it points to. You can set up the analysis and presentation layers only one time; then, to refresh the reporting mechanism, all you have to do is click a button.