A pivot table is a data summarization tool found in data visualization programs such as spreadsheets (e.g. Microsoft Excel). Among other functions, they can automatically sort, count, and total the data stored in one table or spreadsheet and create a second table displaying the summarized data. Pivot tables are also useful for quickly creating cross tabs.
The user sets up and changes the summary's structure by dragging and dropping fields graphically. This "rotation" or pivoting of the summary table gives the concept its name. Pivot Tables are one of the most powerful yet under utilized features in Microsoft Excel. With it, one can slice and dice information in multiple dimensions and create reports in minutes that would normally take many hours using traditional spreadsheet methods. For typical data entry and storage, data is usually flat. Flat means that it consists of only columns and rows.
While there is a lot of information stored in such data, it is very difficult to gather the information you want out of it. A pivot table can help you quickly summarize the flat data, giving it depth, and get the information you want. The usage of a pivot table is extremely broad and depends on the situation. Many Excel users are not familiar with, or are intimidated by Pivot Tables, one of the most powerful features in Excel. A pivot table is a great reporting tool that sorts and sums independent of the original data layout in the spreadsheet. Microsoft introduced Pivot Tables into Excel with version 5.
Pivot Tables replaced. Excel's older cross-tabulation feature. A Pivot Table lets you display the data contained in a column of an Excel list (database) by means of subtotals (or other calculations) that are defined by another column in the same list.
The other calculations might be averages, counts, percentages, standard deviations, and so on. A pivot table creates an interactive summary from many records. For example, you may have hundreds of invoice entries in a list on your worksheet. A pivot table can total the invoices by customer, product or date. You create the pivot table by using a wizard -- no need for complicated formulas! You can quickly rearrange the information in the pivot table by dragging the buttons to a new position. I won't try and hide the fact from you that I am a big fan of Pivot Tables.
I use them a lot in the development of Spreadsheets for my clients. Once the client sees the Pivot Table, they nearly always ask "could I do that?" the answer of course is yes! Unfortunately most people tend to shy away from Pivot Tables, as they see them as too complex. to be honest with you, when you first use a Pivot Table the whole thing can seem a bit daunting.
Don't be put off by this as persistence will almost certainly pay off. I find the best part about Pivot Tables is their ability to be manipulated via 'Trial-and-Error' and immediately show the result. If its' not what you expect, simply use the Undo feature and/or have another go! What you must always remember is that you are not changing the structure of your original table in anyway at all, so you can do no harm!.