Excel: Filter a Pie PivotChart and Maintain Percent of Whole (A Different Take on Progress Charts)

A fantastic question came up during last week’s open lab. Is it possible to create a PivotChart pie chart that can be filtered to show only the percent of the item selected?  Here is one solution for that question (and spoiler alert, it is technically not a PivotChart).

Donut Filtered to show percent remaining

A few things before we get started…

  • First, thank you to Marsha for having this question and inspiring this Byte!
  • Second, this article assumes you have some knowledge of Tables, PivotTables, and Charts in Excel. If you don’t, please come attend a session… times are listed in myTraining.
  • Lastly, this is basically a different take on the idea of a progress pie chart… and I am by no means the creative genius behind this overall idea! If you have a minute, look at some of the tutorials out there for the different use cases for these. They are mighty handy.


Normally when you select a slicer or filter a Pie chart by one item, each item shows as 100%. Here is an example:

Below is a visual of a PivotChart Pie Chart…

Pie Chart PivotChart

Looks great… but when I add my slicers and filter by one item, it always shows as 100% of the total, because it is 100% of what is displayed.

As described above, showing 100%

What if we want to use those  slicers, but also maintain the visual of the item’s percent of the grand total… in other words, in this case, to still show as 36% of the whole? Some finagling is in order.


Rather than an exercise, I am going to try something different. Here is the final document… and below will be the steps I took to create it:  Example Document

In the document, one sheet is the source data, and the other sheet is the final chart with slicers that will adjust the pie chart accordingly.

Click on a few slicer buttons to test it out. Pretty cool!

Donut Filtered to show percent remaining

Starting Point

We originally started with source data (on the Source Data sheet in the document) that consisted of two columns: item and a number.

Starting List, animal names and random numbers

Format as a Table

This first step might be optional, depending on your use case. Since data would be fluctuating in our case (e.g. new rows of data added), it was best to format as a table.

We learn about tables in Excel Essentials, and the advantages of formatting as tables in Excel Pivot Tables, so please come to a session if you are interested in learning more!

1. You can either go to the Home tab, Format as Table, or use the command Ctrl + T.

Format as Table circled in ribbon

2. Pick a design if you would like (in this case, yellow for WSU).Original data, formatted as a table

Create a Helper Column for Percent

We need a cheat column that would keep a percent constant when filtered, so a helper column was in order. You have probably noticed that formulas look different in a table… you still want to build them in the first cell of a column to carry them down.

We want the column to take the figures in column B and divide them by the total. The formula ends up looking like this: =[@Number]/SUM([Number])

Helper Column with formula for percent as described

This looks complicated, but it is very automatic. Here were my keystrokes/mouse clicks:

[click into the first cell of Column C], Type  = [click on B1] / SUM [Select B2 through B7].

Create a Pivot Table

  1. Click on the table to activate Table Design tab.
  2. On Table Design tab, Select Summarize with PivotTable.Table design tab, summarize with pivot table circled
  3. Location of Pivot Table: on a new sheet, titled Pivot.
  4. Build the table with Item as rows, Helper Column as Values.Pivot Table5. Insert Slicer for Item (on the PivotTable Analyze tab).

Create Helper Cells with GETPIVOTDATA

So here is the twist… Instead of creating a PivotChart, we are actually going to create a chart from helper cells that reference information from the PivotTable.

1. The first helper cell references the Grand Total of the PivotTable:

[Click in B1], type  =  [click on the Grand Total cell of the PivotTable].

Notice how this appears in the formula bar as a GETPIVOTDATA formula in the formula bar. This cell will always return whatever Pivot Grand Total is Displayed.

Helper cell with GetPivotData formula

2. The second helper cell, in B2, contains the formula =1-B1. So it will always read the difference of 100% from whatever the GETPIVOTDATA result shows.Formula in a different helper cell as described

Create Chart from Helper Cells

Finally, we can make the chart!

1. Select the two Helper Cells in B1 and B2.

2. Go to the Insert tab, and select the Pie Chart dropdown.

3. Select the Doughnut (it could be any of the pies, but this is the route I took for reasons you will see).

Insert Pie Chart, donut4. If desired, you can pick special colors by right clicking on any data point and selecting Fill. I picked some WSU colors.

Right click menu on chert

Finishing Touches

The number you see in the center of the doughnut is actually a title. Remember how we learn in Excel Pivot Tables, Charts and Pictures training that a chart title can reference a specific cell? This will come in handy here.

1. Title: Click on the line of the title and press = , then click on B1

So this Title will always reference this cell, which will always reference the grand total displayed on the PivotTable.

This means you will always have a number corresponding to the colors on the chart.

Header with formula directing bavk to helper cell

2. Text Box: This may be optional depending on your situation, but I inserted a Text Box at the top of the chart to read Percent of Total: Insert tab, Text Box.

3. Position Slicers: Final step was moving the Slicers and resizing them so they fit neatly on top of the Pivot Table. This was only cosmetic, and is also optional. Really there are infinite possibilities for how you could play around with final formatting with a chart like this.

Donut Filtered to show percent remaining

A Simple Alternative

It is worth mentioning that, depending on your situation, you may be able to skip the PivotTable step by incorporating a total row in your Table. This would apply if you didn’t need to sum multiple entries of specific items.

You would still need to incorporate helper columns, but instead of linking to the Grand Total of the PivotTable, they could link to the Total Row sum.

So many possibilities!


What do you think? Has this sparked any ideas? Have you used pie/doughnut charts for this type of scenario before?

Congratulations, Power Users!

Congratulations to our newest Power Users! For the full gallery, and more information about the WSU Microsoft Office Power User Program, please visit: wichita.edu/poweruser


Robin Mishler

Robin Mishler

Megan Nold (not pictured)

Kylie Sharpe

Kylie Sharpe

Excel: Don’t Merge Those Cells! Here is an Alternative.

Friends don’t let friends merge cells! This is something you hear often among Excel enthusiasts. People usually merge cells in an attempt to make a spreadsheet look nicer. That being said… not only is the beauty of a spreadsheet less important than its functionality, which is definitely adversely affected by merged cells… but there is actually a way to alter the appearance identically to merging cells without all of the many disadvantages that come with merged cells. Let’s check it out.

Excel screen with merged cells


If you would like to follow along with my demonstration below, here is an Exercise file: MergedCells

This is a fictional list of students and grades, with some merged cells at the top.

Merged Cells

The first row of data contains 3 sets of merged cells: A1 with B1; C1 with D1; and E1 with F1. If you select any of these, notice in your Alignment group that Merge and Center is selected.

Excel screen with merged cells

Perhaps someone did this in an attempt to make their spreadsheet look less cluttered? Let’s see why this might have been a bad idea.

Why Merged Cells are Problematic

There are actually quite a few ways that merged cells can be problematic. Here are just a few.

Sort and Filter

Let’s say I would like to use the custom Filter buttons we play with in Excel Essentials.  You want to filter by all students with an A.

1. Click anywhere in the top row, and on the right side of the Home tab, select Sort and Filter, and Filter.

Sort and Filter2. Now, Go to the dropdown created next to Grade.

Sort and filter by grade

Normally I would have the opportunity to filter by letter grade, but because E1 and F1 were merged cells, Excel instead only offers for you to filter by grade %. Not very helpful.


Maybe instead, we can make a PivotTable from the data, and pivot by the letter grade? Go to the Insert tab, and select PivotTable.

Pivot Table errors

What is this? We are receiving an error because we don’t have true column labels (header row) when cells are merged like they are in our top row.. this means that Excel doesn’t know what our categories are to create a PivotTable.

(Shameless plug: come to an Excel: Pivot Tables training if you would like to learn more.)


This is probably the biggest one for me. Let’s say I want to count the number of 22 year old students in my class. No problem! Let’s do a CountIf formula.

In I1 I entered =Countif( … then I tried to select my range, column D…. look what happens:

Formula attempting to select full column

Excel doesn’t want to allow me to include column D alone… it wants to include Column C as well. How annoying! We could probably find our way around this formula issue, but even then, I guarantee these merged cells will get in your way with a future formula.


It is worth mentioning that there are macros that can be interfered with when you use merged cells; it depends on what type of macro you are building.

All in all, merged cells are just not worth the trouble.

Another Option: Center Across Selection

If you are truly attached to the look of merged cells, there is another option. It is called Center Across Selection.

  1. First, let’s undo the merged cells. Select the merged areas, then go to the Home tab, Alignment group, select the dropdown for Merge and Center, and select Unmerge cells.

Unmerge Cells

2. Select A1 and B1, and Right Click on top of them. Select Format Cells.

right click, format cells screen

3. In the popup screen, go to the Alignment tab, and click on the dropdown next to Horizontal. Select Center Across Selection. Click OK.

Alignment tab, center across

4. Repeat this step with C1 and D1 selected, then E1 and F1 selected. Appearance wise, it will look just like merged cells.

Center across looks the same as merge and center

This still will be somewhat limiting; for instance, you may still have difficulty with a PivotTable unless you convert this to a Table first, but you will not experience nearly as many drawbacks as merged cells.

A Question for You

Whether you choose to center across or merge cells, I think it is an important question to ask yourself, why are you wanting to do this? Is it truly necessary? When at all possible, I would recommend avoiding either of these practices. I understand the desire to beautify a workbook, but clearly labeled columns with long lines of uninterrupted data are the truly beautiful spreadsheets. Their beauty is in their functionality; and when functionality is lost, nobody will really care much about how the top row looks. Just a thought, from someone who has “unmerged” many cells in many peoples’ spreadsheets over the years.


What do you think? Has this convinced you to unmerge and never merge again? Either way, I will be here to help you.

Congratulations, Power Users!

Congratulations to our newest Power Users! For the full gallery, and more information about the WSU Microsoft Office Power User Program, please visit: wichita.edu/poweruser

Sheree Smith
(First Power User of the decade!)

Sheree Smith

Microsoft Office 365 PowerUp! Sessions

New Session for WSU Faculty and Staff

Microsoft Office 365 at WSU will feature biannual updates, so you will start seeing new buttons and features appear in your ribbon periodically (perhaps you have noticed a few already). So, we are testing out something new…

Microsoft PowerUp!

  • The sessions will be called Microsoft PowerUp!
  • PowerUp is intended to showcase new features in 365, and will contain new information not covered in previous Microsoft Office sessions.
  • The sessions will be quick. These are demos, not full training sessions, so you can plan for about an hour.
  • Two January sessions will be offered: January 8th and 15th.  
  • Sessions are listed in myTraining, so sign up now and we will save you a spot and a free guide!


Microsoft Office: Color Themes and Custom Color Palettes

Working with color themes in Microsoft Office can open up a whole world of possibilities for customizing your documents. Most people don’t realize how much they are already interacting with themes in Office, or how much control they can have with just a couple clicks. Let’s check it out. But first, a special thank you to Sheree for having some excellent color palette questions in an Excel Essentials session a couple weeks ago and inspiring this Byte.

Exercise File

You can follow along on one of your existing documents, or if you would like a starting place, here is a Word document you can start with:

This is a Word document with a few visual elements that incorporate theme colors. These are all things that will be effected by altering the color theme.

Themes and Color Palettes

What does it mean to apply a color theme? In most of your Office programs, you are already using a color theme, whether you realize it or not. The default is the Office color theme. You see your theme colors in everything from the color options for your fonts, to your default headers, to tables and charts… and more.

In the test file you downloaded, you are seeing it in the headers, the chart, the icons and the table…

One of the easiest ways to check your current palette is to visit the Home tab, Font group, and click on the dropdwon arrow next to the Font Color.

Notice how there are Theme colors, and Standard Colors. The Theme colors display your current color palette. There are gradations underneath each main theme color…. lighter and darker versions of each of the theme colors to create contrast.

Change the Color Theme

Changing your color theme is simple!

1. Go to the Design tab, Document Formatting group. (By the way, this is also where you can go to change your default font settings for the document).

2. Select the Colors dropdown to see a full list of themes. Hover your mouse over each color palette to see a preview.

3. Select a color theme by clicking on it.

Because theme colors are utilized in so many ways in this document, we really see a change in appearance!

Custom Color Palettes

If you are artistically inclined, you might be interested in creating your own custom color themes.

1. In the Design tab, Document Formatting group, click on the Colors dropdown again, but instead of selecting a predefined color set, select Customize Colors…

2. Click on the dropdown beside any of the accent colors to make an alteration. Typically Accent 1 is the color you will see the most in a document.

3. You have the ability to select colors from a color wheel, or select More Colors to enter an exact RGB color.

4. When you are finished, name the color palette and click Save.

5. The new color set will appear in a new section at the top of the Colors dropdown called Custom.

You will be able to access this color palette anytime you create a new document on this computer.

Accessing Custom Color Themes in other Microsoft Programs

Once you have created a color theme that you like, you may want to access it in other programs. Microsoft knows this, so has made them accessible to you in many of your Office programs. They are in slightly different locations though, so let’s take a look.


In PowerPoint, you often see color themes even more prominently than in Word. Here is one popular theme called Berlin, that features a red and yellow color set.

1. In PowerPoint, visit the Design tab, Variants group.

2. Select the dropdown arrow in the lower right:

3. Here is where you will see your color theme options, plus the new custom color you just created in Word. Neat!

This definitely changes the look of this document…


In Excel, Color themes affect features like tables, charts, shapes, and fonts. The default in Excel is the Office color set as well. These colors should look familiar:

1. In Excel, visit the Page Layout tab, Themes group.

2. Select the Colors dropdown.

3. Here is your custom color theme again… no need to reinvent the wheel.


Outlook? Did you read that right? Yep! Outlook also has the same themes and color sets you know and love from your other Office programs.

1. Open up a new email.

2. Visit the Options tab, Themes group.

3. Click on the Colors dropdown, and there you are…


What do you think? Do you think you will utilize custom color themes in your Office documents? By the way, if you create a cool WSU themed color theme, I would love it if you would share it with me!

Congratulations, Power Users!

Congratulations to our newest Power Users! For the full gallery, and more information about the WSU Microsoft Office Power User Program, please visit: wichita.edu/poweruser

Madelyne Toney

Linda Claypool

Susan Johnson

Karen Wilson

Jaime Scherer

Jessica Casper

Cara Tucker

Linda Young (not pictured)

Excel: Power Query: A Simple Introduction

We all occasionally find ourselves navigating the rough terrain of ugly data. Power Query is an excellent tool to have in your back pocket for this eventuality. But here is the deal, Power Query is just that… powerful, and because of this, potentially complicated. In fact, I know a lot of people who have been interested in learning about this beast, only to get quickly overwhelmed in the complexities. So here is my aim with this Byte: a simple introduction to Power Query. Let’s check it out.

Power Query editor screen

What is Power Query?

Power Query is a feature in the PC version of Excel 2016 or later, also known as Get & Transform. There are a multitude of uses for this feature, but it really shines to take on ugly data like this:

Ugly data: lots of information crowded into one column

… and transform it into something more workable.

data neatly formatted as a table

Furthermore, since the result is a query that is connected to your data, it can be updated with a simple click of a button.

Exercise File

If you would like to follow along with my steps below, here is an Exercise File:

A Couple Notes:

  • You will need the PC desktop version of Excel 2016, 365, or 2019 to use this feature.
  • For this Byte I am assuming you have worked with Tables and Pivot Tables in Excel before. If you haven’t, please come to my Excel Essentials and Excel Pivot Tables Sessions and learn about them!
  • Needless to say, this is all fictional data.

The Scenario

The scenario is we have some ugly data that we have exported from a different source. The source has thrown lots of data into one column of a spreadsheet. Monthly, we are asked to create a pivot table of fees owed by class and area code, but this will be rough going, given how the data looks:

Unformatted data

Format as a Table

I have mentioned before that formatting your data as a table has many advantages, and here is another excellent example. There are many data sources you can use for Power Query, but let’s start here for now.

1. Click on any cell inside the data. Do not preselect the entire column.

2. In the ribbon, select Format as Table, and select any style.

Format as table dropdown selected

3. Make sure that all the data is encompassed in your range, make sure My table has headers is checked, and press OK.

Create Table dialogue box, my table has headers selected.

More details about tables are discussed in the Excel Essentials training, so check out one of those sessions if you have not already.

Same data, formatted as a table.

Create a Query

1. Go to the Data tab, and in the Get & Transform Data group, select From Table/Range.

(note: you can also access this from the Get Data dropdown if it is not readily visible)

Data table, Get and transform data group, from table/ range.

2. You will be taken to the Power Query Editor.

Power Query screen

This is a little like an alien abduction from your comfortable Excel home… the look and feel are kind of the same as the rest of Excel, but also kind of different. Power Query uses a different type of code than the rest of Excel, so some things will not be intuitive. I don’t want to get too far in the weeds, but for now note that:

  • There is no undo, but you can always delete a step on the right,under Applied Steps, where coincidentally, every step of the query will appear forevermore.
  • There is a ribbon with Transform and Add Column option. Although options will look similar on both tabs, items on the Transform tab will change an existing column, and items on the Add Column tabwill create a new one
  • A lot of options are also accessible on a right click menu.

Transform the Data

In the query, there is only one column with a lot of ugly data, but I notice most of the data is separated by a colon “:”. Let’s begin by splitting up the columns by this delimiter.

1. Click at the top of the column to select all of the data in the column.

2. In the ribbon, or on a right click menu, select Split Column –> By Delimiter.

Split column, by delimiter circled

3. Make sure Colon is selected, and Each ocurrence of the delimiter is selected. Press OK.

Split column by colon, at each occurrence of the delimiter selected.

Your data should split into separate columns at each occurrence of a colon.

Same data split into separate columns in Power Query screen

4. Let’s work on splitting the phone number. Select the phone number column, and Split Column –> By Number of Characters.

Split column, bu number of characters

5. We want to split after 3 characters, Once, as far left as possible. Click OK.

Split at 3 characters, once, as far left as possible.

Cool, now we have a separate column for the area code!

6. At the top of each column, double click on the title and give each column a name: Name, Area, Phone, Grade, Class, Fees.

Titles typed for name, area, phone

Load the Transformed Data

1. You have the option to name your query on the right side of the screen, under Query Settings –> Properties. If you will be doing multiple queries, this might not be a bad idea.

Query Properties, Name of Students entered.

2. After this, the final step is to press the Close & Load button in the Home tab.

Close & Load circled in home tab.

Like magic! Our data loaded to a new tab in a new table.

Old data organized into a table.

Good News Part One: Data is Easier to Work With

Okay, this data is going to be so much easier to work with. Remember, my original goal was to make a pivot table showing fees owed by area code. Now that this data is in a table, in a few clicks, I have exactly the information I need. Beautiful!

Pivot table by area code and class, calculating fees.

Good News Part Two: Updating Data

We could have fixed up that data in a variety of other ways in Excel (hello, Flash Fill!), but the especially cool part about Power Query is the ability to refresh data in the future with one click. Remember I mentioned this was a monthly report I had to create… so here is what I would do next month… rather than recreate all the steps to make the data readable again:

1. Load the new data into the source table.

2. Right click on the query table and select Refresh

All the query steps we did in the previous section will happen automatically with my new data.

Right click menu, Refresh circled.

More Types of Queries

This example involved a query from a table within a document, but you can query tons of different sources: Excel documents in seperate locations, Access databases, Azure databases, online sources… seriously, check out all the options on the Data tab, Get Data dropdown.

Get data dropdown with location options

Interested in a Power Query Session?

This was a very basic introduction to Power Query. There is a lot more to cover about this amazing feature. WSU friends, I would like to poll the audience here… I think it would be fun to offer a Power Query Session to delve more deeply into its various abilities, but would like to hear from you all if this is something that would interest you. If you are interested, please send me an email!

Congratulations, Power Users!

Congratulations to our newest Power Users! For the full gallery, and more information about the WSU Microsoft Office Power User Program, please visit: wichita.edu/poweruser

Christina Covey

Christina Covey

Brandon Whiteside

5 Tips for Optimizing Charts

Charts can be incredibly challenging. They represent where the right brain and left brain meet… where computations and numbers collide with art and color. To be able to convey true meaning with graphics is a very special skill; here are 5 tips to help you along the way.

Line chart showing two years of chocolate pie revenue

1. Determine Your Message

Two important questions to ask yourself before you dive in to chart creation:

  • Who is your audience?
  • What is your message for them?

Cognitive Overload: Be Kind to Your Audience

One mistake a lot of us make is overloading the audience with too much information. This concept is called cognitive overload. Sometimes we zoom out in an attempt to show lots of data… and end up burying the story we are trying to tell in the process. The audience loses patience, and the entire message is lost.

Horribly messy pie chart titled Star Trek Fans

Consider this unfortunate pie chart… what story was the creator trying to tell? We are going to find some better solutions for this data shortly.

Audience Motivations

Some other important questions to ask are:

  • What is important to your audience?
  • What motivates them?
  • What is their level of knowledge on the topic?

All of these questions should influence the way you determine your message. We are going to revisit this first point frequently throughout this article. Even though it seems like the simplest of concepts, it is often the most forgotten.

2. Select the Right Chart Type

If the picture above gave you minor palpitations, part of the problem may be that someone picked the wrong chart to convey this information. There was a lot of data to comprehend here, more than a pie chart could feasibly tolerate. The chart below uses the exact same data set formatted as a column chart. Is this easier to understand?

Column chart showing star trek fans by state

Alright, the message is still pretty unclear, but we are moving in the right direction.

Here are a few general rules for selecting chart types:

Pie Charts

  • Pie charts should contain no more than 5 pieces, and preferably fewer than that.
  • Pie charts are supposed to show portions of a whole, so the whole should ideally be represented, even if you incorporate grouping (discussed next).
  • Remember your message and your audience (Tip #1), and then consider: are all your pie pieces all the same size? If so, is this pie chart really showing what you want to tell? Maybe it is… maybe your story is that all things are equally represented. But if that is not your message, consider a bar or column chart.
  • Consider incorporating data labels and callouts for further clarification.
Pie Chart titled Favorite Weekend day, showing 86% Saturday and 14% Sunday (fictional data).

Bar Charts and Column Charts

Bar and Column Charts are a great option if you have more information to display.

  • The main difference between bar charts and column charts is that bar charts are composed of horizontal data bars and column charts are composed of vertical data bars.
  • Both are great options for showing larger numbers of data sets.
  • Still, beware of cognitive overload with too much information (see Narrow your Focus for more tips below).
  • Clustered column charts are great for showing quick comparisons between small groups.
Clustered column chart showing dessert sales by three people.

Line Charts

  • Line charts do well comparing two competing data sets over a time period, like monthly sales figures this year stacked up against sales figures last year.
  • They also can help a viewer quickly ascertain overall trends at a glance.
  • One tip: when possible, start the Y axis at 0. This should already be the default setting.
Chocolate pie revenue line chart showing two years of data.

So Many More…

There are so many more charts to choose from! Check out this helpful Chart Chooser for more assistance with selecting the right type of chart.

3. Narrow Your Focus

For this section, I would like to revisit our original problem chart from the beginning. Remember, we started with this:

Horribly messy pie chart titled Star Trek Fans

And changed the chart type to a column chart:

Column chart showing star trek fans by state

…but this is still not an ideal situation.

What story do you want to tell?

Tip #1 will help you narrow your focus for this step. In this case, we had a (fictional) chart of total U.S. Star Trek fans broken down by state. Let’s explore a few stories you may want to tell with this data.

Avoid displaying too much information

Because all the states are represented, this means there are 50 data points. Do we really need to show all of this information? Perhaps, you decide that the story you want to tell is to show the states with the highest rates of Star Trek Fans.

How about removing the states that are not pertinent to your story? Let’s try to narrow our focus by filtering out some unnecessary information (i.e. the lower figures in the data set) with the filter button to the right of the chart.

Filter dropdown next to chart

This leaves us with a more manageable data set, down from 50 points to 7…. let’s keep going.

Column chart titled states with the most star trek fans, showing 7 states.

Highlight Important Information

Another useful technique to drive home a point is to use contrast to highlight important information, visually pulling it to the foreground. Select any data bar, right click, and select Fill to choose any color in the color wheel.

Right click menu, fill selected.

Let’s make use of this opportunity to pull the highest states to the foreground with a deep color, and grey out the others, pushing them to the background.

Take a look at the same filtered graph, recolored. Maybe the story you want to tell is that Hawaii, Kansas and New York had the highest populations of Star Trek fans… if so, this could be a cool way to do it.

Column chart for states with the most star trek fans, with highest figures in a darker red shade.

Group information together

We initially started with a pie chart, and there still might be a case for this type of chart with this data. Grouping together pieces of information is another great way to focus in on your overall message.

Perhaps your goal is to spotlight Kansas, and tell the audience that Kansas contains 5% of the country’s Star Trek Fans. Why not group together the states that are less relevant? We can also incorporate the previous highlighting technique.

This is much easier on the eyes than the original pie chart.

Star trek fans by state, showing Kansas pulled out on its own and the other states grouped together.

Do you see why asking yourself the questions in Tip #1 can put you on the right track for creating a meaningful chart?

4. Choose Words Carefully

Take a look at the chart below. ..

Very wordy pie chart

How long did it take you to grasp the meaning of this chart?

Wherever possible, keep the words to a minimum. And when in doubt, refer back to Tip #1 and ask yourself:

  • Who is your audience?
  • What is your message?
  • How much time would you like them to look at your chart, and what would make the biggest impact?
simpler pie chart: people who like pie.

Remember, the point of a chart is to create a visual illustration of data. More words means less visual impact…

5. Don’t Forget About Your Colorblind Friends

Hey, don’t forget about your colorblind friends!

  • Approximately 8% of the male population and 0.5% of the female population is colorblind or color deficient. This means if 1000 people will be viewing your chart, about 45 of them may not be able to differentiate between certain colors.
  • You can still use color in your charts… Just remember that you don’t want to use color alone to convey meaning.
  • This is something we have talked about before, so if you would like to read more information about the use of color in documents, check out my previous article on the subject.

Just remember, this chart may look perfectly clear to you:

Student Satisfaction pie chart, inaccessible colors.

… but here is how it looks to someone with the most common type of color blindness:

Student Satisfaction pie chart from before, run through a color blindness filter, and the pieces are indistinguishable.

More Notes and Disclaimers

You probably know this stuff, but just in case…

  • You have seen example charts throughout this article. All the data used to create the charts is entirely fictional.
  • Do you want to learn more about how to make charts? Please attend one of my Excel: Pivot Tables, Charts and Pictures sessions listed in myTraining.


Okay, what do you think Power Users? Do you think you will be able to put some of these tips to use with your data? I would love to hear from you!

Congratulations, Power Users!

Congratulations to our newest Power Users! For the full gallery, and more information about the WSU Microsoft Office Power User Program, please visit: wichita.edu/poweruser

Tera Park

Tera Park

Mary Ann Hollander

Mary Ann Hollander

John Keckeisen

John Keckeisen

Amanda Conner

Amanda Conner

Excel: Formatting an Entire Row Based on One Value

Have you ever gone through a list row by row to highlight rows based on one value in the row? Here is one example: you have a list of students, and you want to highlight their entire entry if they have an “A” in your class… so you hand-select an entire row, fill in the desired color, and repeat this process 100 or so times per semester. Never do that again! Let’s check out another versatility of Conditional Formatting: the ability to highlight an entire row based on one value in a specific column.

Before we jump in… big thank you to Samantha and Amanda for inspiring this Byte with this excellent question in (two different) Excel Advanced Formulas sessions!


If you would like to follow along, here is a fictional class list to work with. Our goal with this exercise is to make an entire row yellow if a student has an A in the class.

A Word About Conditional Formatting

In my Advanced Formulas training we touch on formatting specific cells based on their value with Conditional Formatting, but this will be a bit different… in this case, we would like the entire row to be highlighted based on the value of one cell in the row (the grade).

If you haven’t already, I hope you will consider checking out an Excel Advanced Formulas session… for one, we cover Conditional Formatting in more detail, and for two we talk about concepts like absolute references, which I reference later in this Byte.

Create a New Rule: Crafting a Formula

1. Start by selecting all the data you would like the formatting to apply to: A2 through H77.

2. In the center of the Home tab, select Conditional Formatting, New Rule.

3. In the popup screen, select Use a formula to determine which cells to format.

4. Click into the box underneath the text Format values where this formula is true.

  • In your data, click on the cell with the first grade, in H2.
  • Excel will bring in its own language for this cell “$H$2”.
  • Type an equals sign ( = ) and (with quotes) “A”.
  • Your formula at this point will look like : =$H$2=”A”

Sidebar: We hit this in more depth in Excel Advanced, but as a reminder…

  • The “$” means an absolute reference, so a stagnant location in Excel. We see an example of this in class when we try to use autofill to carry down a formula.
  • The A has to have “” around it, since it is text.
  • If you want to learn more about these two points, please come to one of my Excel Advanced Formulas trainings.

Okay, we are not done with the formula yet… if we leave the formula like this, it will highlight the entire selection range (A2 through H77) if H2 has an “A” in it… this is not what we had in mind. To correct this, we are going to remove one dollar sign…

5. Since we realized that the row should not remain absolute, let’s delete one dollar sign (absolute reference). We are going to delete the dollar sign in front of the number 2. This will tell Excel that the row is relative; but the column will remain absolute.

  • Here is what your formula should look like now:


We are not done yet, though… we still have to set up formatting…

Creating a New Rule: Formatting

It is easy to get so caught up in the formula that you forget to set a formatting rule. Right now the formula looks great, but Excel won’t make it look any different until we pick some formatting.

1. Select the Format button in the New Formatting Rule popup underneath where you placed your formula.

2. In the popup that appears, select the Fill tab. Select a color, then press OK.

3. Alright, this looks pretty good! We have a formula and a formatting. Press OK to see the results.

If all goes well, you should have something like this.

To sum up,Excel is looking through column H (which remained absolute with the “$”) for an “A”, and if it finds an “A” there, the entire row is highlighted all the way down (because the “2” was not absolute, thanks to removing the “$”)

Managing Conditional Formatting Rules

A few more things that might be helpful:

  • If you want to see the conditional formatting rules you have created, click on the Conditional Formatting dropdown, and select Manage Rules.
  • The default view shows you the rules present for any cells selected. So if you would like to see all the rules for a sheet, you can alter the Show formatting rules for dropdown accordingly.
  • Here is where you can also make adjustments to your rules: edit, delete, alter the cells it applies to (helpful if you selected too many or too few cells to begin with).


What do you think, will you try out this type of conditional formatting in your documents? I would love to hear how you use this!

Congratulations, Power Users!

Congratulations to our newest Power Users! For the full gallery, and more information about the WSU Microsoft Office Power User Program, please visit: wichita.edu/poweruser

  • Kaylee Nungesser
  • Andrea Glessner

Excel: Spreadsheet Compare

Has this happened to you? You create an Excel spreadsheet that you share with your coworker. She edits the document, sends it back to you, and you are left scanning through a long list of entries to try to determine what changes she made…

In our Word Advanced sessions, we talk about the nifty Compare feature in Word. This feature is absent in Excel, but there is a similar option for Excel users via a Microsoft Add In called Spreadsheet Compare. This Add In comes with PC versions of Microsoft Office 2013, 2016, and 365… in other words, you probably already have it…

Compare Files button in ribbon

Before we jump in, thank you so much to Hannah and Jamie for inspiring this Byte!

Exercise Files

If you would like to follow along, below are a couple of Exercise Files. Save these to a place where you can easily find them for the next step (e.g. Desktop).

This is a fictional class list of students. We are going to assume that the FictionalClass download is the original and the FictionalClassEdited is what your coworker altered and sent back to you.

Spreadsheet Compare Add In

To access the Spreadsheet Compare Add In, click on the Windows icon in the lower left of your task bar, and search for Spreadsheet Compare.

Windows button searching for Spreadsheet Compare

You will be taken to a sort of mission control for comparing spreadsheets. You haven’t loaded anything in here yet, so there is not much to see.

Spreadsheet Compare program with no files loaded

Compare Files

1. In the upper left, click on the first button called Compare Files.

Compare files button in the ribbon

2. A pop up screen will appear. Notice it is asking you to select an “older” file and a “newer” file.

3. Click on the folder to the right of each of these fields, and browse to find the FictionalClass (older) and the FictionalClassEdited (newer) that you downloaded from the exercise files above.

Compare files pop up with folder icons circled

4. The two workbooks will load into the left (older) and right (newer) panes. Notice that changed cells are highlighted in green. Click on one of these cells, and it will select the corresponding cell in the other sheet.

two spreadsheets next to each other with changed cells highlighted.

5. Look at the bottom of the screen for an outline of the various changes that were made. This list notes all sorts of changes that were made, including the contents of cells and the formatting of cells. You can also click on any of these to be taken to the change in the worksheet on the panes above.

Changes lined out underneath

6. Try double clicking on one of the changes highlighted in the bottom pane. You can also access this feature by clicking on Show Details in the ribbon.

Details of the changes that were made to a cell.

It is a little disorienting. This popup screen is showing you what was in the original document, and the change that was made in the second sheet, in kind of a strange format. Simply click on the X in the upper right to go back to the main Spreadsheet Compare screen.

Export Results

It is possible to export all the results from this comparison. in the Export group is a button called Export Results.

Export Results button circled in the ribbon.

This will create an Excel file of all the differences between the two workbooks.

Differences exported in a new Excel document.


While this is a nifty way to quickly see changes between two Excel files, it lacks some of the handiness of the Word Compare feature…

  • You can’t accept or reject the alterations/differences, you can only see them displayed and highlighted. Any desired changes will still have to be made by hand in the source document.
  • There is not a way to save a combined document containing both the original and changed document.

Other than that, a pretty cool tool!


Do you think you will find a use for Spreadsheet Compare? Do tell!

100th Power User Certificate Awarded!

This is a most exciting week in Power User history! We have a three way tie for 100th WSU Microsoft Office Power User. Big congratulations to:

  • Tiffany Morgan
  • Matt Stiles
  • Lauren Wilson
Lauren Wilson, Tiffany Morgan, and Matt Stiles on a poster titled "Congratulations, Power Users!"

For more information about the WSU Microsoft Office Power User Program, visit wichita.edu/poweruser

Mail Merge With Tricky Number Formats

Have you ever attempted to mail merge with fields that contain formatted numbers, only to find that the formatting does not carry over onto your merged Word document? This is a common source of frustration with mail mergers, and something that we can quickly remedy on the Excel end. Let’s take a look… but first, big thank you to Jamie for having this excellent question at Wednesday’s Excel Essentials session and inspiring this Byte.

Insert Merge Field dropdown in Word

Exercise Files

If you would like to follow along, download today’s exercise files below to your desktop.

For this Byte, I am assuming you know the basics of working with Mail Merge in Word. If you are not comfortable with Mail Merge, please attend a Word Essentials training with me! I would love to show you how it works.

Excel File

Let’s take a look at the Excel file first. This is a list of employees… here are all out new professors who we are going to send letters to, welcoming them to Starfleet.

There are columns with Last Name, First Name, Salary, FTE, and Phone Number. The number fields are all formatted: Salary as currency, FTE as rounded to two decimals, and Phone Number as the Special Phone Number format.

Excel file with names, Salaries, FTE, Phone Number, and TEXT columns

Heads up: Notice that, highlighted in yellow, there are also some “helper columns” with TEXT titles. Let’s ignore those for the present, because in real life, perhaps you haven’t created those, and instead incorporated number formatting, as most of us do in our Excel Files

Word File

Opening up the Word File, you will find a letter welcoming professors to Starfleet Academy. Our plan is to enter merge fields into the bold area circled below.

Letter with merge field entry circled

Mail Merge with Formatted Number Columns

Let’s start our merge. We are going to build this using our number formatted columns. Again, I am assuming you have merged before for this exercise. If you are not comfortable with Mail Merge, please come attend one of my Word Essentials session. I would love to show you!

1. In the Mailings tab, go to Start Mail Merge, and select Letters.

Start Mail Merge dropdown

2. For Select Recipients, select Use an Existing List. Browse for the Excel file, wherever you chose to save it.

Select Recipients dropdown

3. Take a look at the Insert Merge Field dropdown, and make sure that you see all the columns you saw in your Excel file. Remember, we are focusing on the first five merge fields for now (not the TEXT ones).

Insert Merge Field dropdown

4. Insert each merge field in the indicated location. It should look like the example below.

Merge fields inserted into Word document

5. Let’s toggle the Preview Results button to see how this will look.

Preview Results button

This is usually the point where people realize that certain types of number formatting do not come through in Mail Merge. The salary, phone number, and FTE are just general number formatting. The phone number has no dashes, the salary has no commas, and the FTE is missing a “0.”

Merge fields previewed with unformatted numbers.

6. Let’s remove the Phone, Salary and FTE merge fields, and try this again. This time, insert the TEXT options that we saw in our “helper” columns in the Excel file.

Insert Merge Field dropdown with TEXT fields circled.

So Salary should be replaced with TEXTSal, FTE with TEXTfte and Phone with TEXTPh.

Merge fields inserted as described

7. When you Preview results, it will look much more like what we had in mind.

Preview with formatted numbers

What difference! Let’s see what makes these columns different in our Excel file.

Text Formulas

Open the Excel file again, and let’s do some investigating. We are going to check out our “helper” columns in columns F, G, and H that contain TEXT in the header.

1. Let’s see how the formula for TEXTSal is set up. Click into cell F2, and take a look in the formula bar. The formula used for Sal was:


Excel, F2 selected, formula bar circled

2. Do the same for TEXTfte in G2. The formula used was:


Excel, G2 Selected, formula bar circled

3. … and finally, TEXTPh in H2. The formula used was:


Excel, H2 selected, formula bar circled

So our investigating reveals that TEXT formulas have been used in these columns, which came over in a much better format for mail merge purposes.

If you would like to learn more about the TEXT function, take a look at this handy guide from Microsoft that will walk you through creating all of these used above, and more!


Has this ever happened to you when you were mail merging with numbers? Do you think you will incorporate TEXT functions with your future merges?

Congratulations, Power Users!

Congratulations to our newest Power Users! For the full gallery, and more information about the WSU Microsoft Office Power User Program, please visit: wichita.edu/poweruser

Haley Underhill

Excel: Navigating Inside a Document with Links

Utilizing links in an Office document can do so much more than simply take your end users to a website. Links are also a great way to help people navigate around a document. Below is a great example… let’s check it out.

Exercise File

Feel free to follow along with today’s Exercise File:

This is a special file full of (fictional) information; there are a variety of sheets at the bottom of the document: a Home sheet, a Management sheet employee information, a sheet with a Class List, and last but not least, Dessert Sales.

You would like to share this document with a group of people who may or may not be very proficient with Excel. Just like we saw with slicers, creating buttons for people to press can be a huge help if people are not familiar with navigating around an Excel document.

Assigning Links

Linking within the Document

We want to assign links to the icons on the Home sheet.

1. Click on the icon of people to select it.

2. Right Click on top of the image, and select Link. (note: this may be called Hyperlink in your version of Office)

3. Notice on the left side of the screen there are a variety of location options. For the icons, we are going to select Place in This Document.

4. Select the Management sheet and press OK.

5. Test out your link by deselecting the icon (click on any cell), then click on the icon.

6. Follow the same process to link the Backpack image to Class List, and the Cake Slice to Dessert Sales.

7. Notice each additional sheet (besides Home) has some arrows in an icon to the right of content. Click on this icon to select it, then link this to the Home sheet.

Test out the icons you just created! You should be able to navigate to a sheet by pressing on an icon in the Home sheet, then go back home by pressing on the Arrows on any other sheet. How cool!

Linking Outside the Document

We have created all sorts of links inside our document. Let’s take a look at linking outside the document.

1. On the Home sheet, press on the WSU Logo to select it.

2. Right click on top of the logo, and select Link (or Hyperlink).

3. On the left side of the screen, press Existing File or Web Page.

4. In the Address box, type http://wichita.edu

5. Press OK.

Test out your newly created link by clicking on the WSU Logo.

Additional Notes

  • Linking to Documents: When you linked to the webpage, you might have noticed the contents of your computer pop up underneath. You can link to an existing document, but remember that the only people who can open the link will be people who have access to the location you are linking to. If you link to something on your desktop, probably you are the only person who can open the link (and only on that machine).
  • Cell Reference: When linking to a place in this document, you can have the link go directly to a specific cell. Enter the cell name in the field provided, otherwise it will default to A1.
  • Removing a link: At any time, links can be removed or edited by right clicking on top of the link and selecting Remove Link or Edit Link.


What do you think? Will you use links to navigate within your shared documents?

Congratulations, Power Users!

Congratulations to our newest Power Users! For the full gallery, and more information about the WSU Microsoft Office Power User Program, please visit: wichita.edu/poweruser