Maintaining Formatting when Refreshing Pivot Tables in Excel


Excel pivot tables are an essential tool for analyzing and summarizing large amounts of data. They allow users to quickly and easily create dynamic reports and charts. However, one common challenge that users face is maintaining the formatting of their pivot tables when they need to update or refresh the data. In this blog post, we will explore the importance of maintaining formatting in pivot tables and provide tips on how to ensure your formatting remains intact even after refreshing your data.

Key Takeaways

  • Excel pivot tables are useful for analyzing and summarizing large amounts of data.
  • Maintaining formatting in pivot tables is important to ensure data integrity and effective analysis.
  • Common challenges in refreshing pivot tables include loss of formatting and potential impact on data analysis.
  • Tips for maintaining formatting include using the "Preserve cell formatting on update" option, creating a template, applying conditional formatting, and locking certain areas of the pivot table.
  • Additional considerations for formatting include understanding the hierarchy in pivot tables, choosing appropriate chart types, and exploring advanced formatting options.
  • Best practices for refreshing pivot tables include regularly updating the data source, refreshing strategically, and verifying data integrity after refreshing.

Understanding Pivot Tables in Excel

Pivot tables are a powerful feature in Microsoft Excel that allow users to analyze, summarize, and manipulate large sets of data. They provide a flexible and interactive way to organize and present data, making it easier to identify trends, patterns, and relationships.

Definition and purpose of pivot tables

A pivot table is a data summarization tool used to transform raw data into a meaningful format. It allows users to restructure, filter, and sort data based on different criteria, making it easier to analyze and draw insights. The main purpose of pivot tables is to provide a dynamic and efficient way to summarize and analyze large datasets.

Benefits of using pivot tables in data analysis

  • Improved data organization: Pivot tables allow users to organize data in a structured, hierarchical manner, facilitating easier analysis and interpretation.
  • Quick data summarization: With pivot tables, users can summarize large datasets into concise and meaningful information. They can easily calculate sums, averages, counts, and other summary statistics without writing complex formulas.
  • Flexible data manipulation: Pivot tables offer a high level of flexibility, allowing users to quickly change the layout, filter data, add or remove fields, and apply different calculations. This flexibility enables users to explore data from various angles and perspectives.
  • Interactive data exploration: Pivot tables provide an interactive environment where users can drill down into details, expand or collapse levels of information, and dynamically update the view. This interactivity enhances data exploration and helps identify trends or outliers.
  • Data visualization: Pivot tables can be combined with Excel's charting capabilities to create dynamic and visually appealing reports. The ability to create charts directly from pivot tables simplifies the process of visualizing data and enhances the presentation of analysis results.

Common Challenges in Refreshing Pivot Tables

When working with pivot tables in Excel, one of the common challenges that users face is the loss of formatting when refreshing the tables. This can be frustrating, especially if you have spent a significant amount of time formatting the pivot table to present your data in a clear and organized manner. In this chapter, we will explore the causes of formatting issues when refreshing pivot tables and discuss the potential impact of these issues on data analysis.

Loss of formatting when refreshing

One of the most noticeable challenges when refreshing pivot tables is the loss of formatting. This can include the removal of custom number formats, cell borders, font styles, and conditional formatting rules. The pivot table may revert to its default formatting, which can make it difficult to read and analyze the data effectively.

Causes of formatting issues

There are several reasons why formatting issues may occur when refreshing pivot tables:

  • Structural changes: If the underlying data source for the pivot table undergoes structural changes (such as adding or deleting rows or columns), the pivot table may lose its formatting as it tries to adjust to the new data.
  • Data type changes: If the data types in the underlying data source change, such as converting a text field to a numeric field, the pivot table may not recognize the change and may apply incorrect formatting or lose formatting altogether.
  • Formatting conflicts: If there are conflicting formatting settings between the pivot table and the data source, such as different number formats or font styles, the pivot table may prioritize its default formatting over the custom formatting applied by the user.

Potential impact on data analysis

The loss of formatting when refreshing pivot tables can have a significant impact on data analysis:

  • Data misinterpretation: Without proper formatting, it becomes challenging to interpret and understand the data presented in the pivot table. This can lead to incorrect analysis and misinformed decision-making.
  • Visual clarity: Formatting plays a crucial role in visually organizing and presenting data. When formatting is lost, the pivot table may appear cluttered and difficult to navigate, making it harder to identify patterns and trends within the data.
  • Time-consuming reformatting: When formatting is lost, users may need to spend additional time reapplying the desired formatting to the pivot table. This can be a tedious and time-consuming process, especially for complex pivot tables with multiple formatting styles.

Tips for Maintaining Formatting when Refreshing Pivot Tables

When working with pivot tables in Excel, it's essential to maintain the formatting of your data to ensure a consistent and professional appearance. Here are some useful tips to help you preserve formatting when refreshing pivot tables:

Use the "Preserve cell formatting on update" option

  • By default, Excel automatically updates the formatting of pivot tables when you refresh them.
  • To prevent Excel from overriding your formatting changes, you can enable the "Preserve cell formatting on update" option.
  • This option can be found by right-clicking on a pivot table, selecting "PivotTable Options," and navigating to the "Layout & Format" tab.

Create a template with desired formatting

  • To save time and ensure consistent formatting across multiple pivot tables, you can create a template with your desired formatting settings.
  • Start by formatting a pivot table according to your preferences, including styles, font sizes, colors, and any other formatting elements you want to preserve.
  • Save this formatted pivot table as a template (File > Save As > Excel Template), and you can easily apply it to other pivot tables in the future.

Apply conditional formatting to pivot tables

  • Conditional formatting allows you to highlight specific data points or apply formatting rules based on certain criteria.
  • You can apply conditional formatting to pivot tables by selecting the cells or data range you want to format, going to the "Home" tab, and choosing the appropriate conditional formatting options.
  • This way, when you refresh the pivot table, the conditional formatting will be automatically recalculated and applied to the updated data.

Lock certain areas of the pivot table to prevent accidental changes

  • To protect the formatting and structure of your pivot table, it's a good practice to lock specific areas that should not be modified.
  • You can lock cells or ranges by selecting them, right-clicking, and choosing "Format Cells." In the "Protection" tab, select the "Locked" checkbox.
  • After locking the desired areas, go to the "Review" tab and click on "Protect Sheet" to prevent accidental changes to the formatting and layout of your pivot table.

Additional Considerations for Formatting

When refreshing pivot tables in Excel, it is important to pay attention not only to the data and calculations but also to the formatting. Maintaining the formatting of a pivot table can help ensure that the visual representation of the data remains consistent and easy to understand. In this chapter, we will explore some additional considerations for formatting pivot tables in Excel.

Understanding the Hierarchy in Pivot Tables

One important aspect of maintaining formatting in pivot tables is understanding the hierarchy of the data. Pivot tables allow you to group data by different dimensions, such as dates or categories, and display them in a structured manner. When refreshing a pivot table, it is crucial to consider how the hierarchy may affect the formatting.

  • Column and Row Labels: The column and row labels in a pivot table represent the different dimensions of the data. When refreshing the table, ensure that the labels remain consistent and properly aligned.
  • Subtotals and Grand Totals: Pivot tables often include subtotals and grand totals to provide a summary of the data. Make sure that these totals are clearly formatted and remain accurate after refreshing the table.

Choosing Appropriate Chart Types

While pivot tables are primarily used for data analysis and calculations, they can also be used to create visual representations of the data through charts. When refreshing a pivot table with charts, it is important to consider the appropriate chart types to use.

  • Bar Charts and Column Charts: These chart types are suitable for comparing values between different categories or dimensions. When refreshing a pivot table with a bar or column chart, ensure that the formatting remains consistent and that the chart accurately represents the updated data.
  • Line Charts: Line charts are commonly used to track trends over time. If your pivot table includes dates as a dimension, consider using a line chart to visualize the data. Pay attention to the formatting of the chart's axes and data points when refreshing the table.

Exploring Advanced Formatting Options

Excel offers a range of advanced formatting options that can be applied to pivot tables to enhance their appearance and readability. When refreshing a pivot table, it is worth exploring these options to ensure that the formatting remains consistent and visually appealing.

  • Conditional Formatting: Conditional formatting allows you to highlight specific data based on predefined rules or conditions. When refreshing a pivot table, check that any conditional formatting rules are still valid and properly applied.
  • Font and Cell Styles: Excel provides various font and cell styles that can be applied to pivot tables to emphasize certain elements or improve readability. After refreshing a pivot table, verify that the chosen font and cell styles are still present and consistent across the table.

Best Practices for Refreshing Pivot Tables

When working with pivot tables in Excel, it is important to follow best practices to ensure accurate results and maintain the formatting of your data. In this chapter, we will discuss three key best practices for refreshing pivot tables: regularly updating the data source, refreshing pivot tables strategically, and verifying data integrity after refreshing.

Regularly update the data source for accurate results

One of the most crucial best practices for refreshing pivot tables is to regularly update the data source. This ensures that your pivot table reflects the most current data and eliminates any discrepancies that may arise from outdated information. To update the data source:

  • Step 1: Open the Excel workbook containing your pivot table.
  • Step 2: Locate the data source or connection used by your pivot table.
  • Step 3: Update the data source by either refreshing the data connection or updating the underlying data.

By regularly updating the data source, you can maintain accurate and up-to-date results in your pivot tables.

Refresh pivot tables strategically

Refreshing pivot tables should be done strategically to optimize performance and minimize any potential disruptions. Here are some key points to consider when refreshing pivot tables:

  • Refresh frequency: Determine how often your pivot tables need to be updated based on the frequency of your data source updates. If your data source is updated daily, refreshing the pivot tables daily would be ideal.
  • Manual vs. automatic refresh: Decide whether to refresh pivot tables manually or set them to refresh automatically. Manual refresh gives you control over when to refresh, while automatic refresh can save time and ensure up-to-date data.
  • Refresh all or selected pivot tables: Depending on your needs, you can choose to refresh all pivot tables in your workbook or selectively refresh specific pivot tables.

By strategically refreshing your pivot tables, you can optimize performance and ensure that you have the most accurate and relevant data at your disposal.

Verify data integrity after refreshing

After refreshing your pivot tables, it is essential to verify the data integrity to ensure that the refresh process did not introduce any errors or inconsistencies. Here's how to do it:

  • Compare results: Compare the refreshed pivot table results with the previous version to check for any major discrepancies.
  • Review data source: Double-check the data source or connection used by the pivot table to ensure it is still valid and accurately reflects the intended data.
  • Validate calculations: If your pivot table includes calculated fields or measures, review and validate the calculations to ensure they are still accurate after the refresh.

By verifying the data integrity after refreshing, you can have confidence in the accuracy and reliability of your pivot table results.


In conclusion, maintaining formatting when refreshing pivot tables in Excel is crucial for effective data analysis. It ensures that the visual presentation of the data remains consistent and allows for easier interpretation and comparison. By following the tips and best practices outlined in this blog post, such as using Table Styles and turning off AutoFormat, users can refresh their pivot tables and preserve their desired formatting. By doing so, they can save time and effort while ensuring their data analysis remains accurate and visually appealing.

Recap of Tips and Best Practices:

  • Use Table Styles: Apply a Table Style to your data range before creating a pivot table, so that the formatting is automatically applied to the pivot table when refreshed.
  • Turn off AutoFormat: Disable the AutoFormat option in the PivotTable Options to prevent Excel from automatically formatting your pivot table when refreshing.
  • Preserve Column Widths: Set the column widths in your pivot table to match the original data range, so that the refreshed pivot table maintains consistent column widths.
  • Reapply Conditional Formatting: If you have applied conditional formatting to your pivot table, make sure to reapply it after refreshing to maintain the formatting rules and data highlighting.

By implementing these tips, users can confidently refresh their pivot tables in Excel while preserving the formatting, ensuring that their data analysis remains accurate and visually consistent.

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