Learn how to efficiently organize data with Excel tables. On this One-Minute Wednesday, we’ll be showing you how to use tables in Microsoft Excel, which allow you to automate things like sorting, formulas, and more.

Creating A Table

Excel tables are a sophisticated tool and can be extremely helpful when organizing data. To create a table, simply highlight the data you want to include and then navigate to the Insert tab on the ribbon. From there you’ll want to go to the Tables group and click on Table.

Highlight your data, navigate to the Insert tab, and click Table

This will pull up the Create Table window, where you can adjust the parameters of the table by editing the columns and rows selected. If your table has headers—in this case “PROFITS”, “QTR”, etc.—then you’ll want to check the “My table has headers” box to ensure that Excel will recognize them properly.

Set the parameters and headers for your table

Then click OK and Excel will create your table.

An example table

Using Your Table Effectively

Now that your table has been created, let’s look at some of the functionality you can use to your advantage. First, you’ll notice that Excel has automatically added sorting and filtering drop downs at the top of each column, so you don’t need to insert those yourself.

Sorting and Filtering drop-down menus are automatically added to table headers

Now that we have our table sorted out, we can begin to compile data. Let’s use a simple SUM function as an example. Normally when using the SUM function, you would need to use specific cell references to obscure the cell letters and numbers. However, with tables you can reference an entire column at once by name.

To do this, use the formula =SUM(“tablename”[“columnname”]), replacing the placeholders in quotations with the names in your spreadsheet. In our example, the formula would read =SUM(Table2[PROFITS]).

An example formula referencing the table: =SUM(Table2[PROFITS])

This will take the data in that specified column and give you a total. This works with any function in Excel, so you are free to use whatever formulas you need while easily referencing your table and columns by name.

Another great thing about tables is that you can easily add data rows to your table simply by typing in the new information at the bottom of the table. Excel will automatically add a row, and it will auto-format to match the table specifications. In this example, we’ve added a row for 2016.

Any formulas referencing the table will automatically update when new data is added

You’ll notice that our SUM function has automatically updated with the new data—we didn’t need to adjust the formula to include the new row.

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