PivotTables part 4: Task-oriented UI, or “improvements the Ribbon affords us”, and some bonus talk about dialogs
As I mentioned a few posts back, one of the key goals for PivotTables in Excel 12 was to use the Ribbon and new dialogs to expose PivotTables’ capabilities to a much broader range of users. Today I want to take a closer look at the new user interface – especially the ribbon – and how we have tried to make commonly-used features and functions much more visible and available with very few clicks of the mouse. I am also going to briefly cover some changes and additions to the PivotTable Options and Field Settings dialogs.
PivotTable tab I – the Options tab
This tab is designed to hold all the commands you would commonly use when working with a PivotTable. In addition to giving us more room to expose all the functionality that already exists in Excel PivotTables, it also provides space to advertise new features we have added in Excel 12. In our testing, we have found that it allows all users (both beginning and power users) to take advantage of a wider range of features than in previous versions of Excel. We are pretty excited to see this sort of improvement.
Let’s walk through a few of the interesting “chunks” and controls on the Options tab (I will try and cover others as I put up more posts in the future). The first one I would like to point out is the Change Data Source button.
Clicking this button opens a dialog which allows you to easily change either the source data range for PivotTables based on data inside Excel or to change the connection for PivotTables based on external data (which is something we hear customers ask about all the time). An example of this would be switching from a test database to a production database. Here is a screenshot of the dialog illustrating how to change the data source of a PivotTable based on an OLAP data source.
Next, let’s take a look at the “Clear” drop down and the “Change Location” button.
Another thing we hear from PivotTable users all the time is that it is too difficult or slow to clear stuff off of a PivotTable. The Clear drop down provides two new options that hopefully solve those problems. The button applies clear operations to all fields, so users do not need to go to each field individually and remove it or clear the filters applied to it. Specifically, here are what the two options do.
• Clear All. This is a fast, one-click way to remove all fields from the PivotTable and at the same time get rid of any manual formatting, custom captions, etc. that you (or someone else) might have applied. After clicking Clear All, you are at the same state as when the PivotTable was originally created (as if you hadn’t added any fields yet).
The Change Location button allows you to easily move the active PivotTable to a different location. Selecting this button it brings up a dialog that lets you specify the new location.
PivotTable tab I – the Styles tab
In addition to the Styles gallery and Layout Options (discussed in my previous post), the Styles tab has a number of controls that are designed to make it easy for users to toggle on and off parts of their PivotTables. For example, we have added a “Subtotals” drop down that makes it very fast to turn on or off subtotals for all fields in the PivotTable (instead of going to every singe field to do it which is what is required today). In Compact and Outline Form, you can also control whether to display the subtotals at the top or at the bottom.
This is another great illustration at how the Ribbon helps usability – we can provide a simple set of results-oriented, visual choices that is scoped to the user’s current activities. We think people will really like this.
Similarly, you can use the Grand Totals drop down to turn on or off grand totals for rows and columns. You can also toggle things like banding on and off for any particular style.