Author Archive


Well here’s something that I probably learned once, but have subsequently forgotten and then rediscovered: You can filter a PivotTable Page Field just by typing the PivotItem that you want to filter it on. So if I start with a PivotTable like this:
Pivot Unfiltered
And say I don’t like the look of the mysterious substance that the kids have left smeared all over the mouse (probably just jam, but who the hell knows). I desperately want to filter that PivotField, but I desperately want to avoid the mouse. Well, watch what happens if I ust overtype the (All) in the PageField with the thing I want to filter by:
 Pivot Overtype PageField
Pivot Filtered
What’s more, if I type the name of a field that’s not already in the PivotTable over the existing PageField name:
Pivot New PageField
…then Excel does something else intelligent: it says “Oh, you want me to bring that PageField into the Pivottable for you.”
Pivot New PageField Inserted
The same thing in terms of adding new Fields goes for RowFields:
Pivot New RowField
Pivot New RowField Inserted
If you think about it, the adding of the fields is the same behavior as simply overtyping fields already in the PivotTable to rearrange them.

Regardless, now that this secret’s out, I don’t have to chip the sticky crap from my Mouse. As Phyllis Diller once said…Housework can’t kill you, but why take a chance? No, I don’t know who she is, either.

Two Times Table

So if you’ve played around with Tables a fair bit, then you probably would have noticed that you can merrily insert a row in the worksheet that intersects one table:
Insert OK

…but if you try the same thing on a row that intersects more than one table, the Insert, Delete, and Clear Contents options are grayed out (or greyed out, if you live where I live):
Insert Not OK

You may have tried to get around Excel’s veto by cutting or copying a row from somewhere else, then trying to insert it via the ungrayed (or ungreyed) Insert Copied Cells option:
Insert Copied Cells
…at which point Excel wiped that smirk of your face with this:
Not allowed

So I know when this happens. But I don’t understand why. Anyone have any ideas?

Formula Auditing – woes and arrows

I’ve been playing around with the Formula Auditing tools a fair bit recently. These things:
Formula Auditing Tools

In the course of this, I noticed a few things I haven’t before. Firstly, here’s my setup:
Formula Auditing Example_No Arrows
When I have cell D6 selected and click Trace Precedents, Excel is kind enough to draw just one arrow from the precedent range, while putting a box around the entire Precedent range so I can see where it is:
Formula Auditing Example_TracePrecedents
If I were to click on Trace Dependents for that cell, I’d like to see pretty much the same thing:
Formula Auditing Example_DesiredTraceDependents
…but here’s what I actually see:
Formula Auditing Example_TraceDependents
…which looks like something that Hippies were hanging on the walls in the late sixties:
String Picture
…when they weren’t out protesting, that is:
String Protest
Doing a Trace Precedents when there’s a much longer array of dependent cells involved looks even worse:
Formula Auditing Example_TraceDependents_Many
…and Excel becomes very sluggish as you scroll around, so presumably Excel is constantly redrawing these. Scrolling down doesn’t tell you much…that’s for sure:
Formula Auditing Example_TraceDependents_Many2
Let’s take a look at another setup, to better illustrate a couple of things I didn’t know until now:
Formula Auditing Example2_blank
Here’s what Trace Dependents has to say about cell B2:
Formula Auditing Example2_TraceDependents_Level1
One thing I didn’t realise until today, is that if you keep clicking that Trace Dependent button, Excel keeps drawing in additional levels of downstream dependents:
Formula Auditing Example2_TraceDependents_Level2
Formula Auditing Example2_TraceDependents_Level3
Formula Auditing Example2_TraceDependents_OffSheet
In case you didn’t know, you can double-click on any of the blue arrows, and you’ll be taken to the Precedent/Dependent cell concerned…particularly handy if it points somewhere off-screen. And you can double-click the arrow once you’re there to be magically transported back again. The dotted arrow pointing to a little sheet icon in the above screenshot tells you that there’s an off-sheet dependent that points at cell C19, which you can jump to if you double click on that dotted arrow and then select the reference from the Go To box:
Formula Auditing Example2_Goto
…although as you see above, the native dialog box is so narrow that you’re unable to actually see the cell addresses, and can’t be resized. In that case, you might want to download Jan Karel’s excellent RefTreeAnalyser, that fixes this and does a good deal more besides:
Formula Auditing Example_JK_UserForm
It also has a much better way of displaying precedents, by overlaying in the current window some little pictures of any precendents that happen to be out of view or on another sheet. (Would be really handy to have the same functionality for dependents too.):
Formula Auditing Example_JK_Visualise
Colin Legg has some great code that will also help you to determine all on-sheet and off-sheet precedent cells, using the .NavigateArrow method to actually travel up those blue arrows and thus find any precedents on other sheets. I imagine Jan Karel uses pretty much the same approach. [Edit: No, he doesn't ]. You’ve got to use the .NavigateArrow method, because the Range.Precedents property doesn’t return precedents on other sheets or other workbooks.

Now here’s something nasty I’ve just noticed about the native Formula Auditing tool: It doesn’t pick up on off-sheet references that involve any kind of Table Reference, although on-sheet references work just fine:
Formula Auditing Example_Tables offsheet
So it is well broken, in my opinion, because I often refer to Tables on other sheets. And both Colin’s code and Jan Karel’s addin won’t help you here, I’m afraid. [Edit: Jan Karel's code still catches these.] Seems to me the only way to get around this would be to search the worksheet for instances of a Table’s name occurring within formulas. That’s assuming there’s no way to actually read Excel’s dependency tree from wherever Excel maintains it. I seem to recall seeing a post a few years back about how you can extract information from the tree by extracting XML from the workbook file, but that might just be a flight of fancy. Anyone know whether it ispossible to interrogate the dependency tree directly somehow?

How ’bout colours instead of Arrows?

Given all those arrows can get pretty confusing, I thought I’d have a crack at coding up something that lets you use Conditional Formatting instead and/or arrows to highlight Dependents (Green) and Precedents (Blue). Here’s my starter for ten, with both Dependents and Precedents highlighted. Direct Dependents/Precedents get a darker colour and white bolded font so you can easily tell them from indirect:
Formula Auditing Example_Jeff1
…and you can restrict it to just showing direct:
Formula Auditing Example_Jeff2
…and overlay arrows if you want:
Formula Auditing Example_Jeff3
It automatically updates if you change your selection, too:
Formula Auditing Example_Jeff4

It doesn’t solve the Table issue mentioned above, but I’ve been finding it quite handy to get a quick feel for what’s going on in those crappy spreadsheets I inherited…err…designed recently.

Here’s a sample file:

Sync Pivots from dropdown

Over at the Excel Guru forum, Yewee asks:

I have 3 sheets in my excel worksheet.

1. Org
2. DataSource
3. Pivots Table

My Pivot table will get the data from the DataSource sheet. I will like to have the filter of the Pivot Table from one of the cell in Org Sheet.

How can I do that?

Incredibly easily, if you have Excel 2010 or later…because:

  • a PivotTable with nothing but one field in the Filters pane looks and behaves pretty much exactly like a Data Validation dropdown does; and
  • that PivotTable can be hooked up to the other PivotTables via slicers, so that it controls them.

If you’re a long-time reader of this blog you probably already know that, and may want to skip to the end to find a bit of VBA that makes setting up Slicers slightly more easy. But if you came here via Google, then pull up a pew and read on.

So let’s say these are the two Pivots that you want to control via a dropdown, and you want to put the dropdown where the red rectangle is:

Two Pivots and target


First, create a new PivotTable from the datasource that the other pivots share (or make a copy of one of the existing Pivots) and in the PivotTable Fields pane add the field you want to filter the other Pivots by to the Filters pane. (If you created this Pivot by copying another, remove any other fields that might appear).

Faux DV and Fields List

Great: Now you have a PivotTable masquerading as a Data Validation Dropdown. From now on, I’ll call it the ‘Master Pivot’. So just drag that Master Pivot where you want it:

Faux DV and Pivots


From the ANALYZE tab of the PivotTable Tools contextual menu in the ribbon, click the Insert Slicer icon:

Insert Slicer


…and from the menu that comes up, choose the field name that matches the field you put in the Master Pivot:

Chosen field

…and your slicer will magically appear:

Slicer added


Now we connect that Slicer to the other PivotTables. To do that, right click on the Slicer that just appeared, and click the Report Connections option:

Right Click


You’ll see from the Report Connections box that comes up that currently it’s only connected to one PivotTable – which of course is the Master PivotTable that we used to insert the slicer in the first place:

Report Connections Master


What we want to do is connect it to the other PivotTables, by checking those other checkboxes:



(Optional) We might want to make it so that the user can only select one thing at a time by clicking on the Master Pivot filter dropdown, and unchecking Select Multiple Items, if that’s your intent:

Dont select multiple items


…and now all we need to do is move that Slicer somewhere out of sight (but don’t delete it):

Faux DV and Pivots


Now when we select a region from that Master Pivot dropdown…

Select Region

… all the other Pivots are filtered to match:



That’s it…job done. As simple as possible, and no simpler.

Actually that’s a lie…unless there’s a good reason not to, it’s much simpler just to use a Slicer in the first place, and not bother with setting up the Master Pivot dropdown at all:

Just Use Slicer


Of course, that Slicer takes up much more room than our Master Pivot dropdown. So maybe that’s a good reason to use the Master Pivot approach, and not a slicer. Especially if we might want more than one dropdown to control all the Pivots and space is at a premium:

Multiple Dropdowns

Or you can do away with the Master Pivot altogether, and just set the slicers up between the actual ‘output’ pivots themselves, so that as soon as they change a PivotFilter setting in one of the Pivots, the others get changed too. (Note that this also happens with the ‘Master Pivot’ approach…it’s just that we don’t actually need to have that Master Pivot sitting there taking up space at all).

Programatically add and connect Slicers

I’ve always found it annoying that there’s no right-click option to add a Slicer to the currently selected PivotField. Plus connecting Slicers to multiple PivotTables is a drag. And also, I hate it how it adds new Slicers over the top of old slicers. So here’s some code that remedies all that:

Sub AddSlicer()
Dim pt As PivotTable
Dim ptOther As PivotTable
Dim pf As PivotField
Dim pc As PivotCache
Dim rng As Range
Dim sc As SlicerCache
Dim varAnswer As Variant
Dim bFoundCache As Boolean
Dim rngDest As Range

Set rng = ActiveCell

On Error Resume Next 'in case user has not selected a PivotField
Set pt = rng.PivotTable
Set pc = pt.PivotCache
Set pf = rng.PivotField
On Error GoTo 0

If pt Is Nothing Then Exit Sub

If pf.Orientation <> xlDataField Then
    Set rngDest = Intersect(ActiveCell.EntireRow, ActiveCell.Offset(, ActiveCell.CurrentRegion.Columns.Count + 1))
    On Error Resume Next 'SlicerCache might already exist
    With rng
        If pt.PivotCache.OLAP Then
            Set sc = ActiveWorkbook.SlicerCaches.Add2(pt, .PivotField.CubeField.Name)
        Else:  Set sc = ActiveWorkbook.SlicerCaches.Add2(pt, .PivotField.Name)
        End If
       sc.Slicers.Add SlicerDestination:=ActiveSheet, Top:=rngDest.Top, Left:=rngDest.Left
    End With
    If Err.Number > 0 Then 'SlicerCache already existed. Work out what it's index is
        On Error GoTo 0
        For Each sc In ActiveWorkbook.SlicerCaches
            For Each ptOther In sc.PivotTables
                If ptOther = pt Then
                    bFoundCache = True
                    Exit For
                End If
            Next ptOther
            If bFoundCache Then Exit For
        Next sc
    End If

    varAnswer = MsgBox(Prompt:="Make Slicer control the " & pf.Name & " field in all Pivots on the same sheet?", Buttons:=vbYesNo)
    If varAnswer = vbYes Then
        For Each ptOther In ActiveSheet.PivotTables
            If ptOther.CacheIndex = pt.CacheIndex And ptOther.Parent.Name = pt.Parent.Name Then
                sc.PivotTables.AddPivotTable ptOther
            End If
    End If

Else: MsgBox "You can't add a Slicer to a Values field."
End If
End Sub

In addition, the below code will add the Add Slicer icon to the right-click menu that comes up when you right click on a PivotField:

Option Explicit

Private Sub Workbook_Open()
End Sub
Private Sub Workbook_BeforeClose(Cancel As Boolean)
End Sub

Sub AddShortcuts()
    Dim cbr As CommandBar

    Set cbr = Application.CommandBars("PivotTable Context Menu")

    With cbr.Controls.Add(Type:=msoControlButton, Temporary:=True)
        .Caption = "Add Slicer"
        .Tag = "AddSlicer"
        .OnAction = "AddSlicer"
        .Style = msoButtonIconAndCaption
        .Picture = Application.CommandBars.GetImageMso("SlicerInsert", 16, 16)
    End With

End Sub
Sub DeleteShortcuts()
    Dim cbr As CommandBar
    Dim ctrl As CommandBarControl
    Set cbr = Application.CommandBars("PivotTable Context Menu")

    For Each ctrl In cbr.Controls
        Select Case ctrl.Tag
        Case "AddSlicer"
        End Select
    Next ctrl
End Sub

…meaning whenever I right click on a PivotField I get this:



Clicking on that adds a Slicer to the selected field automatically, plus asks you:

Control all pivots


Hell yes, I do!

Here’s a sample file:



A couple of quirky bugs…

Found a couple of funny bugs today that I thought I’d share.

First, this one:

Weird: Partially italicizing right-aligned text screws with the display of trailing spaces. But it doesn’t do the same to left-aligned text with leading spaces:

And then there’s this one, where you start with a file that you’ve suppressed gridlines on:
…and then you add a New Window…which allows you to look at a different parts of the same file on dual monitors – or even the same monitor if it’s suitably wide, by clicking on this:
New Window2

(Aside: I never rated this feature as being particularly useful until I got a second monitor and then recently rediscovered it. Now I’m starting to think is indispensable, as I no longer have to scroll around half as much as I do when getting to grips with how spreadsheets are laid out, or when putting in new formulas that point from one region of a workbook to a completely different region of the same workbook. I’m sure Dick has been using it for years to avoid rodenting.)

But when you compare the new window (which Excel temporarily renamed SomeFileName:2) to the old (which Excel temporarily renamed SomeFileName:1), there’s a couple of subtle differences:


So it respects my wishes to not show the Formula bar, but ignores my wish to not display gridlines and headings. And if I close the original window – the one called SomeFileName:1 – then those settings I didn’t want from SomeFileName:2 are now in the file SomeFileName. Bummer.

So make sure that’s the one you close when you’re done. Otherwise your file now has gridlines and/or headings when you didn’t want it to.

One of these things is not like the other…

Sometimes when I copy code from the web and paste it into VBA, I get something like this:

…and I’m damned if I know why. It’s not the usual culprit of incorrect quote marks. It’ something else, and I don’t know what.

Usually I just retype the offending line:
No error
…and after looking in vain for a difference, simply delete the bad one, and put it down to inexperience.

But not today. Because I’m tired of being compiled around. So today, I’m gonna find out why. And I’m going to use Excel to keep VBE honest. Conquer and #DIV/0, I say.

If I paste the two formulas into separate cells in Excel, then I can clearly see that something is amiss. I just can’t clearly see the actual something:
Excel 1

Okay, let’s get nasty, and atomise these suckers so I can compare their DNA:



Well take a look at that…there’s the culprit:
No wonder I couldn’t see it:

In this particular case, the culprit looks like Ken Pul’s Blog platform…I stole the code from a comment Jan Karel left there, and note that the code has no similar issue if I lift it directly from Jan Karel’s site.

There you go. Busted.

Makes me feel like singing:


Slicers and SlicerCaches

Behind the scenes, Excel does quite a bit of smart rationalisation in terms of SlicerCaches whenever you connect Slicers to mulitple PivotFields, and this can be a bit confusing if you’re not familiar with what’s going on. So let’s take a look-see.

First, let’s create three PivotTables all based on the same data source – meaning they all share the same PivotCache and therefore can all be connected – or ‘daisy-chained’ – together with Slicers later on if we so desire:
Three Pivots One Cache

Next, let’s add a separate Slicer for each of them, with each Slicer pointed at the “Item” field of it’s related Pivot:
Slicers and Pivots only
So that’s what we see. How does Excel see this?

Seperate SlicerCaches

There’s a couple of points to note about this diagram. Firstly, the boxes across the top are screenshots from the Report Connections dialog box:

…which you get by right-clicking on a Slicer and selecting this:

And secondly, the reason I've drawn circles around those Item fields:
PivotField level

…is that I really want to underscore that slicers operate at the PivotField level, not on PivotTable level.
So where where we. Ah yes, three Pivots based on the same PivotCache, with three Slicers all pointing at the Item field of their respective PivotTable:
Seperate SlicerCaches

Let’s now change Slicer Two so that it also points at the Item field of PivotTable Three:
ReportConnections - both
How did that change the conceptual lay of the land?
Shared SlicerCaches2

Well, that looks different. Excel rationalised the SlicerCaches by ditching SlicerCache three, and now both Slicer Two and Slicer Three are connected to SlicerCache Two. Meaning that conceptually, they both point at the Item field in both PivotTable2 and PivotTable3. In fact, if you were to right click Slicer Three and look at the ReportConnecitons, you’d see it looks exactly the same as for Slicer 2, even though we didn’t touch it. And if we change the selection in one of these Slicers, we see it replicated in the other as well as in each Pivot. It’s as if those Slicers are one and the same:
One and the same
Interestingly, if we remove PivotTable3 from that SlicerConnections dialog:
ReportConnections - remove 3
…things don’t go back to the way before: Slicers Two and Three are still synced together, but control PivotTable2 only. PivotTable3 is completely slicer-less:
Remove PT3  from Slicer Two

There’s no way you can get that Slicer Three to operate independently on its own again. You’ll just have to delete it and add another, I’m afraid.

Adding Slicers Programatically

If you record a macro while adding a slicer, you get code like this:

ActiveWorkbook.SlicerCaches.Add(ActiveSheet.PivotTables("PivotTable1"), "SomePivotField"). _
        Slicers.Add ActiveSheet, , "SomePivotField", "SomePivotField", 146.25, 309.75, 144, 187.5

All those arguments of the Slicers.Add command are optional except the first. And all those numbers just tell Excel where you want the Slicer, and how big you want it to be. So you could just go ahead and use this for the same result:

ActiveWorkbook.SlicerCaches.Add(ActiveSheet.PivotTables("PivotTable1"), "SomePivotField"). _
        Slicers.Add ActiveSheet

You can actually add a SlicerCache that controls a pivot without adding a Slicer:

ActiveWorkbook.SlicerCaches.Add ActiveSheet.PivotTables("PivotTable1"), "SomePivotField"

…and then you can connect another PivotTable to it:

ActiveWorkbook.SlicerCaches("Slicer_SomePivotField").PivotTables.AddPivotTable (ActiveSheet _

…meaning you now have an invisible slicer that keeps the pivots in sync, based on user selections from the pivot filters themselves. Spooky! Note that –

  • If you add another slicer to that same PivotField on either of those PivotTables, Excel simply uses the slicer cache you just set up, meaning the new slicer controls BOTH pivots, even though you just added it to one.
  • If you delete that slicer, Excel performs a Slicer Exorcism: it deletes the underlying SlicerCache, meaning your two pivots are no longer synced. Unspooky!

Here’s something else slightly spooky. Or rather, kooky. Normally if you delete a pivot that is the ONLY pivot that uses a particular PivotCache, Excel gets rid of the PivotCache automatically. Excel basically thinks “Well, we won’t need that crap lying around anymore”. But strangely, if you have a slicer set up for that pivot, then deleting the pivot leaves both the slicer AND the pivot cache alone. The PivotCache only gets deleted once you delete that orphaned slicer.

Well, that’s enough for today. But *HORROR* there’s some Slicer-related sequels coming to a screen near you soon:

So stay tuned. And awake.

Formulas? Pah!

Welcome back to Twice Daily Dose of Excel. Heck, these days we’re more regular than Julian Assange’s visits to the Ecuadorian Embassy!

Audrey has a table that looks something like this (if you’re American):

Table US

…or like this (if you live somewhere sensible, like in New Zealand and a good deal many other places besides):

Table English

She uses this to track when she requested a piece of information from someone, and the date she received a response. I’m picking she’s NSA, and is asking Julian – who is actually a quadruple agent – whether he needs more sun lamps. Stranger things have happened, recently.

Anyways, she’d like a formula to find the oldest/latest request date out of all responses received in a particular month.

She could array enter something like this, which will do the job without any need for helper columns:


…which to an Excel Pro with a lifetime of formulas under their belt would look like this:


…but to anyone else:

="Αυτό θα μπορούσε κάλλιστα να είναι γραμμένο στην ελληνική γλώσσα"

You could debate whether there’s a right formula to use in a situation like this. In fact there’s some great debate on that original blogpost as to whether one proposed solution is awesome, potentially obfuscating, or incomprehensibly mutant. So with this in mind, is there a right formula to use in this case? Depends on who’s trying to comprehend what’s happening here in 6 months time. Perhaps yourself, with six more months of grey-matter dieback under your belt. Or hat, rather. Is there a right non-formula approach to Audrey’s problem? You betcha:

Just create a PivotTable out of that sucker:

Blank PivotTable

…drag the ‘Date Requested’ field to the Rows pane and the ‘Date Received’ to the Values pane:


…launch the Value Field Settings dialog for the Date Requested field:

Launch Value Field Settings

…change the name of the Date Received field to something meaningful, and change Sum to Max:

Value Field Settings Dialog

…plus click on that Number Format button while you’re there so you can change the format to Date:

Number Format

…then select any cell in the Date Received column and click Group Selection from the PivotTable Tools > Analyze contextual tab, and group by Months and Years:

Group Selection

…and exhale:


No, waithold that breath…we forgot to change the name of that ‘Years’ column that just appeared – as well as the ‘Date Received’ column that now holds Months only – to something more suitable:

Pivot finished

Now exhale.

Here’s the genius…it even works in American:

Pivot finished american

and it works on trickier problems, like the original one at that post:

Original Problem

¿Fórmulas? No nos hacen falta fórmulas apestosas!