Excel’s grid-like main window gives you lots of freedom to organize your information. As you’ve seen in the chapters so far, tables of data can assume a variety of shapes and sizes—from complex worksheets that track expenses, to a simple list of dishes your guests are bringing to a potluck dinner.
Some tables are sophisticated, with multiple levels, subtotals, and summary information. (You’ll learn how to manage these multi-tiered creations in the next chapter.) But in many cases, your table consists of nothing more than a long list of data, with a single row at the top that provides descriptive column headings. These types of tables are so common that Excel provides a set of features designed exclusively for managing them. These tools let you control your tables in style—sorting, searching, and filtering your information with just a couple of mouse clicks. Excel even includes a group of functions expressly designed to analyze the information in tables. But before you can use any of these tools, you have to convert your garden-variety table into a structured table.
In this chapter, you’ll learn more about what, exactly, a structured table is, how to create one, and how to make use of all its features and frills.
Don’t confuse structured tables with the variable data tables you used for what-if analysis. These tables have a similar moniker but nothing else in common.
An Excel table is really nothing more than a way ...