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How to Create Pivot Tables in Google Sheets

Looking to create a pivot table in Google Sheets? Here's how to do it, plus a simpler alternative.

Pivot tables are a very useful tool to use in any spreadsheet. This versatile feature so commonly used in Excel is also available in Google Sheets.

Here’s a look into pivot tables, and how to create them in Google Sheets:

What Are Pivot Tables Used For?

Pivot tables summarize your data for you, allowing you to group slices of your information. These tables are useful when trying to locate, showcase, and examine your data.

This makes pivot tables ideal for answering questions about your data, easily handling and searching through even large datasets.

How to Create Pivot Tables in Google Sheets

Creating pivot tables in Google Sheets is easy. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Start by opening your spreadsheet on Google Sheets and selecting all the data.
  2. Go to Insert and select Pivot Table:
  1. Select where you want to create your pivot table and click on Create.
  1. Use the Pivot table editor to customize your result. You can click on Suggested to use an automatically-generated pivot table suggestion.
  2. If you want a personalized pivot table, you can click Add to manually select and add rows, columns, values, and filters. Place the numeric values and measurements into the Values field and the categorical data either into rows or columns, depending on your personal preference.


It’s that easy!

But, how do you set up the right pivot table for you? Here are a couple of options:

Pivot Tables with Multiple Columns

The easiest way to set up pivot tables with multiple columns is by using the pivot table editor.

Go to the pivot table editor, and click the Add button next to Rows. Then locate the row you want to show and click on them. Repeat the same process to insert a Column to start seeing your pivot table take shape.

You can also select the right Filters and Values to display multiple columns according to your needs.

Pivot Table Filters with Slicers

Google sheets also allows you to add pivot table filters with slicers. Slicers are novel visual filters that show you the items you’ve chosen in your table. To do it, open your pivot table. Go to the top and, under Data, select Add a slicer.


A slicer menu will appear at the right of the window. Here, you can select the column to filter by. Then, simply click the slicer and choose the filters you want to apply.

Reading and Sharing your Pivot Table

Now that you have your pivot table set up, you can easily sort through the data, analyze it, and contextualize it according to your needs. Once you get the hang of pivot tables, they’re a flexible tool, making the data easy to experiment with and interact with.

Besides the normal sharing options, Google Sheets also allows you to copy an existing pivot table and paste it elsewhere. This is useful for when you want to use it as a starting point or when you want to keep the raw information private.

Simply go down to the pivot table sheet and click on the arrow to point to open the menu. Then, select Copy and choose between copying to a new spreadsheet or an existing one.

 

Pivot Tables Pros and Cons

Google Sheets is a good tool to create pivot tables. However, pivot tables may not be the best tool to find the data you need. Here’s a closer look into pivot tables in Google Sheets, where they shine, and where they don’t.

Pros

Here are some of the pros of using Google Sheets for building pivot tables:

#1 Easy to share

You can share the resulting pivot table with anyone by just sharing the link to it. You can also copy and duplicate pivot tables, and place them into existing and new sheets.

#2 Fairly easy to build

Although it requires some experimenting and a bit of research, pivot tables are easy to build in Google Sheets. They allow you to segment large amounts of data and make it interact with each other to create more.

Since Google Sheets is not hosted on your computer, it doesn’t depend as much on your computer’s specs as when using any spreadsheet tool you need to install or download, like Excel or Libre Calc.

Cons

Here are some of the pros of using Google Sheets for building pivot tables:

#1: Hard to master

Although Google Sheets makes building pivot tables as easy as possible, truly mastering pivot tables will take time, just like with any other spreadsheet function.

Pivot tables are also only useful when the creator knows exactly what they’re looking for, and all they need to find it is to automate data interactions. 

These tables are not great for less experienced users who may not know what they’re looking for, or even experienced users looking for new data insights.


Instead, you can use Polymer right now, and get the same pivot table with just a couple of clicks, and with a couple more you can easily share or improve it.  Plus, there’s little training. Polymer’s UI is so intuitive it doesn’t take long to get the hang of it.


That’s just not something you can say about any spreadsheet tool.

#2: Limited capabilities

Pivot tables allow your data to interact with itself in a finite number of ways. The amount of data it can generate is limited by design.


With very limited sorting options, you can only get an equally limited amount of new data. You’ll also have to make sure your spreadsheet is regularly updated if you want your pivot table to reflect current data.


There’s no real-time analysis, no automated insights.


Polymer instead allows you to easily interact with your data, giving you an intuitive way of finding almost limitless insights. You also get automated insights generated by AI technology to proactively offer you useful data.


Learn more about it.

#3: No contextual information

Whether you’re using pivot tables in Google Sheets, Excel, or any other spreadsheet tool, pivot tables are not great at contextualizing information.


The point of pivot tables is to extract information to allow you to examine it individually. However, it can be hard to contextualize the data you get from it, especially when handling large amounts of it.


That’s an issue you simply don’t have in Polymer. Since Polymer automatically calculates all information for you, you can instantly get the right context for the right data. Forget about setting up slicers to search through your data! With Polymer, you can search through your spreadsheet as if you were using a search engine, quickly finding insights you didn’t even know you needed.

Polymer vs Google Sheets, what’s better?

Is Google Sheets a good tool for pivot tables? Definitely.


Google Sheets remove part of the need for large processing power when handling pivot tables. Although the tool has limited capabilities when compared to tools like Excel, Google Sheets makes it up with shareability and a slightly more intuitive UI.


However, any spreadsheet tool will have the limitations of the old spreadsheet model. And, nowadays, there are just far more advanced ways to interact with your data. And, thanks to Polymer, you don’t need to know how to code to get an advanced and personalized tool either!


Polymer allows you to become an insightful data analyst, with zero technical knowledge required.


With Polymer, you can examine your data smartly and intuitively, and get the AI-generated data insights you need to thrive.


All of that for free, without downloading anything!


Simply create an account, upload your spreadsheet, and start interacting with your data. 


It’s that easy.


Sign up for free today.


Posted on
March 5, 2022
under Blog
March 5, 2022
Written by
Ash Gupta
Former Tech Lead for Machine Learning at Google AdWords (6 years) and a quant developer on Wall Street. Co-Founder & CEO of Polymer Search.

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