A magical Excel trick for flattening data copied from a PivotTable report in tabular layout into usable format

Magical Trick for Data Flattening in Excel

Here is a scenario that I come across sometime ago when I received an Excel file with some apparently messy data for further processing to generate another report. The data in the file appear similar to below screenshot. This data is self-explanatory. It’s the sales in units and dollars of each product under each product category made by each sales person. If you observe the data, for all the sales made by each sales person, name of the sales person is listed only once. Same goes with product category appearing only once for each product.

Now the challenge is to flatten the data in a way that for each product row, respective product category and sales person name should get repeated. Only then, it becomes consumable in downstream process for further preparation of another report. By the way, this is just some fictitious small amount of data. The file I received has more than a few thousands of records, which means it’s not feasible to perform this task manually.

By the way, this kind of data mess happens when you copy the data from a PivotTable report in Tabular Layout, with Repeat All Item Labels option not selected under Layout group of Design tab, +/- toggle button disabled under Show group of Analyze tab of PivotTable Tools ribbon; and then paste the values of such copied data to different location for the further sharing, like it was shared with me.


Here is a magical trick to complete this task accurately in just a couple of steps:

Step.1. Apply filter to the header row. Click on Salesperson field filter drop down. Deselect all items and then select only blanks. Hit OK.

The data looks as below after this step.


Step:2. After applying the filters, observe that the cell address of the first blank cell in Salesperson column is A4 (boxed in red). This means that the cell above A4 (i.e., cell A3) is the first non-blank cell. This gives us a logic that the value in A4 should have been the same as the value in cell A3. So, just enter the formula =A3 in cell A4. The same logic applies for all the other blank cells too. So, copy the formula to the rest of the blank cells. After this, clear the applied filters from salesperson column header. That works the MAGIC..!! This completely fills up all the blank cells in the Salesperson column accurately as in the below screenshot:


Repeat these two steps for Category column as well. The magical trick works there too..!!

For more such tricks follow the blog. Hit the likes if you like the trick. Happy Learning..!!


Introduction to VLOOKUP in MS Excel

Hi friends… one of the important features of Excel which every user of Excel is expected to be aware of, is VLOOKUP function. Here I take you through the nuts and bolts of VLOOKUP:

What does VLOOKUP do ? VLOOKUP function looks up (searches)  a value in one column and then returns the corresponding value in the same row from another desired column.

It’s similar to searching for the phone number of a person from a phone directory where you would first search for the name of the person and then move across that row towards the phone number column and then take a note of the value found in that phone number column.

Signature of the function:                                                                                                

VLOOKUP(lookup_value, table_array, column_index_num, [table_range])

Explanation of arguments of the function:

lookup_value: This argument indicates WHAT is the value that you want to lookup or search.

table_array: This argument indicates WHERE do you want to lookup or search. This argument is also known as lookup table. The lookup value will be searched ONLY in the FIRST column of the lookup table.

column_index_num: This argument indicates value from WHICH column in the lookup table is to be returned.

table_range: This argument indicates whether the search process need to be exact type or approximate type. 0 (zero) or FALSE indicates exact match, 1 or TRUE indicates approximate match. This argument is optional. Although FALSE is most frequently used, TRUE is the default value for this argument, if nothing is specified.

An example is better than a precept.

So, lets understand the working of VLOOKUP function with a couple of examples using some fictitious data:

Example 1.

Scenario: Here are some customer names with their phone numbers alongside maintained by an analyst. The requirement is that the manager will determine the lucky customer each month by some lucky draw and ask for his/her phone number from the analyst, so that the customer may be contacted on Phone.

Now the analyst do not want to search for the customer in that long list of customer and phone numbers manually as we do in a phone directory. He just wanted to enter the name of the person in the cell beside “Best Employee” (i.e., in G2) so that the phone number of the customer is automatically displayed in the cell beside “Phone Number” (i.e., in G3), as in the below screenshot.

Now, lets write the VLOOKUP formula in cell G3 to return the Phone Number of the Lucky Customer  present in cell G2 by looking up or searching for that customer in the lookup table spread across the range – B3:C13.




WHAT to search: cell G2 has the name of the customer that you want to search.

WHERE to search: the first column in the range B3:C13 is the place where the customer name is to be searched.

value of WHICH column of the range in the corresponding row to return: proceeding from left to right in the range and numbering the columns starting from number 1, in mind, Phone Number column gets number 2. since we want the value from Phone Number column to be returned finally, we specify its enumerator, i.e., 2 here.

Last argument indicating Match Type: Since, we want search for the exact name of the customer in cell G2 from the first column of the lookup table, we will indicate 0 or FALSE here.

Now when you press enter after entering the formula in cell G3, it initially returns a “#NA” since we haven’t yet entered any Lucky Customer name in cell G2.


Now lets test our VLOOKUP formula by entering a name of a customer as Lucky Customer in cell G2 to see if it returns the correct phone number of that customer.

I entered “Rathod” as Luck Customer and it correctly returned the respective Phone Number as highlighted the record of this customer in the lookup table in yellow:


* Remember that VLOOKUP does case insensitive search. Hence, in the above example, if you have entered “rathod” in the place of “Rathod”, you would still see the right value being returned.

Caveats: If the column in the lookup table where the lookup value to be searched is not the first column of the lookup table, VLOOKUP wouldn’t work.

Hope you enjoyed reading this post..!! Want to learn more variations of VLOOKUP addressing more challenging business data analysis problems …..? Follow my blog by just entering your email id and hit on follow button at the top right of this blog post..