Empty PivotTable Cells Don't Show as Blank

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated May 13, 2023)
This tip applies to Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021


Philip has used PivotTables for years, and feels he knows how to manipulate them. Lately, though, the empty cells in his PivotTables are coming up with the text "Empty" rather than just being blank. Philip wonders why this would be happening and how to stop it.

There is a very good chance that, somehow, the configuration options for PivotTables were changed for the PivotTable. Follow these steps to check:

  1. Right-click your PivotTable. Excel displays a Context menu.
  2. From the options available, choose PivotTable Options. Excel displays the PivotTable Options dialog box.
  3. Make sure the Layout & Format tab is displayed. (If is typically displayed by default.) (See Figure 1.)
  4. Figure 1. The Layout & Format tab of the PivotTable Options dialog box.

  5. Clear the For Empty Cells Show check box.
  6. Click OK.

Note, in these steps, what is shown in the For Empty Cells Show field. If the field is blank, then it doesn't really matter if the check box is chosen or not. In Philip's situation, though, there is a very good chance that the word "Empty" is within that field, and that is why he is seeing what he is seeing.

This setting can be changed on a case-by-case basis for your PivotTables. If you are using Excel 2019, Excel 2021, or the version of Excel provided with Microsoft Office, then it is possible that your default PivotTable settings have been modified. In these versions, follow these steps:

  1. Display the File tab of the ribbon and click on Options. This displays the Excel Options dialog box.
  2. At the left side of the dialog box, click Data. (If this option is not available on your system, then you are using an older version of Excel and you cannot change PivotTable defaults.)
  3. Click the Edit Default Layout dialog box. Excel displays the Edit Default Layout dialog box.
  4. Click the PivotTable Options button. Excel displays the PivotTable Options dialog box, which is virtually identical to the dialog box shown earlier.
  5. On the Layout & Format tab, either clear the For Empty Cells Show check box or make sure the field is empty.
  6. Click on OK to close the PivotTable Options dialog box.
  7. Click on OK to close the Edit Default Layout dialog box.
  8. Click on OK to close the Excel Options dialog box.

Now, whenever you inset a new PivotTable, you won't see the word "Empty" in empty PivotTable cells.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (13045) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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