|A Complete Guide to Pivot Tables: A Visual Approach|
|reviewer||Raymond Lodato (rlodato AT yahoo DOT com)|
|summary||A well-researched step-by-step tutorial on the use and programming of Microsoft Excel PivotTables for data analysis.|
If you have any need to analyze data in Excel, you must read this book. I learned so much more about PivotTables after I read it that they are now actually useful, rather than just being something I would occasionally try out. Every chapter is packed with excellent information in an easy-to-follow format. A beginning to intermediate user can understand most of the book; only the chapter on programming PivotTables requires intermediate to advanced knowledge to fully comprehend.
Cornell takes a tutorial approach to explaining what PivotTables are, what they are capable of doing, and how you can apply them to your needs. Each chapter in the Complete Guide gives you an overview of a single topic, a series of step-by-step examples, a Try-It section for more practice, and a summary of next steps. The book was written for Excel 2003, but most of the techniques can be applied to Excel 2002 and even Excel 2000.
When you read this book, I would recommend that you sit at your computer to try these techniques as you read them. I tried to just read the book at first, but you really get itchy to try each feature out. Take it in sequence, as there is a definite building from one chapter to the next.
Chapter 1 gives you an overview of the PivotTable feature, what it's meant to do, and why you would use it. Chapter 2 starts the in-depth training of building basic PivotTables from Excel Lists, external data sources, other PivotTables, etc. It also includes tips on formatting the information and tweaking the fields and table to your liking. Chapter 3 goes even deeper, with information on advanced settings, filters, calculated fields, and other little gems that make analysis easier. These three chapters complete your basic training and lead to chapter 4, "Using PivotTables in the Real World." Paul proceeds to give not just one, but three examples of how PivotTables could be used to provide insight into company operations.
While everything I'd known about PivotTables before picking up this book was covered in the first three chapters, the last three chapters explain additional capabilities that really make Excel valuable for data analysis. Chapter 5 explains PivotCharts, which are simply a graphical representation of the information shown in a PivotTable. Paul goes into detail on the different chart types and how they interact with the underlying PivotTable.
If you need to distill and analyze multidimensional, relational data, PivotTables are up to the task, as chapter 6 will demonstrate. The book describes how you use cube files, OLAP databases, and Microsoft Query to get the data and manipulate it. If you're a really capable programmer, comfortable with VBA, chapter 7 shows you how to work with PivotTable programmatically. There is program after program showing you exactly how to get at the data, massage it, and create the resulting PivotTable.
Finally, there is one appendix that describes the differences between Excel 2000, Excel 2002, and Excel 2003. I was originally reviewing this book while using a computer with Excel 2000. I was delighted to find out that most of the information in the book works exactly as Paul described (although the screen shots didn't match). I did recheck some of the examples on my other machine running Excel 2002, and had no problems at all.
Granted, this book is specifically written for Microsoft Excel. However, OpenOffice, the free competitor from Sun MicroSystems, mimics most of the Microsoft Office suite. How does it compare, you ask? Well, OpenOffice has a similar facility to PivotTables, called DataPilot; however, DataPilot is primitive in comparison. For example, you must select the data to summarize, choose (from the menu bar) Data --> DataPilot --> Start, then drag the fields to the appropriate place in the diagram and click OK. Like Excel, you can freely move the fields between row, column, and data areas, and change the data operation from Sum to Min, Max, or a number of others. Unlike Excel, there isn't much more you can do. You don't have Page fields; you can't sort fields on their data; PivotCharts aren't represented; and there's no programming. If you only want to do simple data analysis in OpenOffice, you can get the basics from chapters 1 and 2 of this book.
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