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Filter data


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filter data

Filtering is another way of finding specific data. It's useful when you have a large amount of data and want to see only specific records within it.

For example, suppose you have a mailing list stored in Excel, and you have a field called Category. Each record is categorized as either Business or Personal. Sometimes you want to work only with the Business contacts, and you can use a filter to show only the desired records.

An AutoFilter enables you to filter the list to show only records with a specific value in a specific field.

To use an AutoFilter, follow these steps:

  1. Choose Data > Filter > AutoFilter. Each of the field names becomes a drop-down list.
  2. Open the drop-down list for a field name and select the desired value, as shown in Figure 6-9. All records that do not match that value in that field are temporarily hidden.

Figure 6-9: Use an AutoFilter to narrow down the list of records to those matching certain values in certain fields.

View a larger version of this image.

  1. If desired, further refine the filter by doing the same thing for another field name.
  2. When you're finished looking at the filtered records, choose Data > Filter > AutoFilter to turn the AutoFilter off. Or, if you want to continue doing AutoFiltering but want to start over, choose Data > Filter > Show All to leave AutoFilter turned on but return to the full set of records.

The Advanced Filter feature is not easy to use, but it does offer some powerful capability. With it you can write formulas that represent what you want to find.

To use Advanced Filter you must insert some blank rows above your data range, to serve as a criteria range. There must be enough blank rows that there is an extra blank row between the last entry in your criteria range and the start of your data range. For most people, four or five blank rows are sufficient.

The field names must be repeated in the criteria range. You don't have to include every field name -- just the ones that you plan on using in your filter.

Figure 6-10 shows an example of a worksheet set up with a criteria range for filtering by Category and ZIP.

Figure 6-10: Before using Advanced Filter, you must set up a criteria range.

View a larger version of this image.

Next, in your criteria range, enter the criteria to use. Items on the same row are AND statements, so both must be met in order for a record to be included. Items on different rows are OR statements; either may be met for a record to be included. In Figure 6-11, for example, records will be included that are BOTH in the Business Category AND with a ZIP Code that begins with 462.

Figure 6-11: This criteria range specifies that both conditions must be met.

View a larger version of this image.

You can use the standard * and ? wildcards. An asterisk stands for any number of characters; a question mark stands for a single character. Should you ever have to find a string that actually contains a ? or an *, you can precede the character by a tilde (~) to make it a literal value.

After setting up your criteria range, you're ready to perform the filter:

  1. Choose Data > Filter > Advanced Filter. The Advanced Filter dialog box opens.
  2. Under Action, choose either Filter Data in Place or Copy to Another Location.
  3. In the List Range text box, confirm that the list range is correct. Modify it if needed.
  4. In the Criteria Range box, enter the range of the criteria, including the field name labels.
  5. If you chose Copy to Another Location in Step 2, enter the top left cell for the range into which you want to copy in the Copy To box. Figure 6-12 shows a completed dialog box.

Figure 6-12: The Advanced Filter dialog box.

  1. Click OK. The filter is applied.
  2. When you want to return to seeing all the records again, choose Data > Filter > Show All. This is an issue only if you chose to filter data in place in Step 2; if you chose to copy it, the original data never disappeared.

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