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A pivot table is a table that summarizes data from another table, and is made by applying an operation such as sorting, averaging, or summing to data in the first table, typically including grouping of the data. A trivial example is a column of numbers as the first table, and the column average as a pivot table with only one row and column. A slightly less trivial example is a table with columns sex and height, each row giving the sex and height of a person, and a pivot table made from it with the same two columns but only two rows, with "male" and "female" in the sex column and the average height of each sex in the height column. A third more complex and more typical example adds another dimension to the pivot table: a data table has columns month, salesperson, product and sales, each row giving the total sales of some product by some salesperson in a certain month, and a pivot table made from it has a first column salesperson of salespeople names and the remaining column names are product names and contain the total sales by that salesperson of that product over all months.
Pivot tables are used in data processing and are found in data visualization programs such as spreadsheets or business intelligence software. Such programs can automatically sort, count, total or average the data stored in one table or spreadsheet, displaying the results in a second table — the pivot table — showing the summarized data. The user often sets up and changes the summary's structure by dragging and dropping fields graphically. This "rotation" or pivoting of the summary table gives the concept its name.
Pivot tables are related to contingency tables (also known as a cross tabulation or crosstab), but a pivot table is considered more dynamic, and can have operations performed on it, whereas a contingency table is a static display of data.
The term pivot table is a generic phrase used by multiple vendors. In the United States, Microsoft Corporation has trademarked the specific compound word form, PivotTable.
Pivot tables can be seen as a simplification of the more complete and complex OLAP (online analytical processing) concepts.