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Excel Pivot Table "bug"?

Posted on 2010-08-24
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Last Modified: 2012-05-10
I have an Excel pivot table that is acting very strangely in Excel 2007 - SP2.  I've never seen this before.  When I first created the pivot table, I noticed one of the entries showing up as "-5.32907E-15".  When looking at the detail, this field should have been zeros.  So, then I added another level of detail below the total.  When I expand the detail, I get a zero total, but when I collapse it, I get the above value.

Anyone seen anything like this before?


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Question by:cjagger
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Author Comment

by:cjagger
ID: 33511783
Attached is a very simple spreadsheet that I created that shows the problem.
excelbroke.xls
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Expert Comment

by:Patrick Matthews
ID: 33511848
It's not a bug--it's a quirk in how Excel (and Access, VBA, and many other apps) do floating point math.The short version: the IEEE standard many apps use for floating point arithmetic cannot capture every single number to an arbitrary level of precision, which leads to situations like you see above, where you expect an operation to return a zero value, but you instead get a very tiny but non-zero value.
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Patrick Matthews earned 125 total points
ID: 33511870
For more info, you can get several good explanations here:http://www.bing.com/search?q=excel+ieee+floating+point&src=IE-SearchBox&FORM=IE8SRC
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Author Comment

by:cjagger
ID: 33511908
That is very strange.  In all the Excel workbooks I've done, I've never seen this before.  Thanks for the explanation and the resource!
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Expert Comment

by:Patrick Matthews
ID: 33512665
cjagger,You're most welcome!It is why sometimes in VBA code, instead of a test like this:    If VarA - VarB = 0 Thenyou instead see:    If Abs(VarA - VarB) < 0.0000000001 Then:)Patrick
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