Text Truncated in PivotTable

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated January 3, 2020)
This tip applies to Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003


Anil complained that when he created a PivotTable, some of the text in some of the source cells was truncated when it was placed in the PivotTable. He wondered if there were a way around this.

The first thing to do is make sure that the text is actually being truncated. When text is transferred to a cell in a PivotTable, it works much the same as text in the original worksheet. This means that the text is "cut off" when there is data in the cell to the right of the text cell. The full text is still there, but it cannot be displayed because there is not enough room to do so within the cell.

Testing has shown, however, that PivotTables will only transfer up to 255 characters from a source cell. Anything after that is truncated. This limit seems to be hard coded into Excel, and there is no way around it that I could discover. The limit of 255 characters may seem arbitrary, and it is. I can only surmise that Microsoft needed to establish a length limit on text and figured that 255 characters should be sufficient for most purposes.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (3394) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003.

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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What is one less than 7?

2021-04-22 20:40:47

Michael van Balen

This is not consistent. I pivoted a table with several 'comment' cells containing text strings greater than 255 characters. Only one was truncated for some reason.

2021-01-23 20:30:57


If the purpose had to do with "reporting summary information" then why would Excel show cell info at all?

Seems more likely to either be a holdover from earlier days in which a value like 2^8 was much more of a concern as resources were more limited and limiting what an individual function/functionality used was more of a concern.

Barring that, it could then have been a holdover to not "break" existing cross tables/pivot tables. After all, with hundreds of millions, billions really, of nice laid out such existing, suddenly having them break because some cells suddenly displayed 20-30,000 characters might've not appealed. "Beark" in the sense of suddenly no longer fitting in their expected layout, not so much in the sense of throwing off any data or the spreadsheet's own analysis of such. Just a human's willingness to look at it.

Barring that, perhaps they simply were presented with having to offer built-in ability to limit such, perhaps an unappealing programming prospect.

Further, the programming to change the 255 character limit might've been buried deep in existing material. To the outside eye, Excel seems to have quite a number of things buried too deeply, used by too many unrelated functions, to unwind profitably in more modern times. Too, too many follow-on problems to then fix as well for a small (by their considered (i'm sure) opinion) benefit.

However,, of course, it could simpkly be oversight, just a matter of neither occurring to them, nor having it brought to their attention by an outsider. Not that they have many ways for the latter to occur as they pay attention to something like their (provided) Excel User Forum only sporadically and always after-the-fact when some coincidental upgrade happens to seem like being responsive. Perfectly happy to hide coincidence and claim glory. That aside, I check sites like this quite a lot and this is the first time I've seen a question or compalint on the subject so I imagine I'd spot them this one if one got right down to it.

But being underpinned by a theoretical desire to enforce some concept of "summary information" upon their users? No, not even I would accuse MS of that, and I take a really jaundiced view of Monopolist Software and its motives and practices.

2019-07-27 05:32:08

Ron S

255 (2 to power of 8) is a (binary) number that is one of the "natural" limits in computing.

Pivot tables were designed to report summary information. So it is not surprising that MS put a relatively low limit on the number of digits included in the pivottable .

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