Sort an Excel list into numerical, date or alphabetical order to organise your data into a more useful arrangement.
Once you know how to use the Sort command you can organise information so that it’s easier to interpret. For example, if you receive a list of purchases made by many different clients on different days of the month it may be easier to see which clients are buying from you at different times of the month. By sorting the data by client and by date you can easily analyse who is buying and when.
Where you have identical information in more than one field you can specify a secondary field to sort by. This is called ‘adding another level of sort’.
For example, a personnel list may contain a number of people with the same first and last name. However they may differ in age.
Therefore, you can specify the primary sort be performed by Surname, the secondary sort by First Name and then finally by Age.
Tip: before you sort your data you might like to put a coloured fill on one or more rows. Once you have performed the sort check that all of the cells within each row are still together and then remove the fill. If the coloured cells aren’t together you have performed the sort incorrectly.
Join the 'Excel at Work Insiders' group today!
100% free. Join now and unlock offers exclusive to this group!
And gain instant access to your first exclusive bonus:
'Steps to becoming Proficient in Excel'!
A list of over 100 skill topics you need to know to become a proficient user of Excel
In the examples below, the first image shows where the data has sorted correctly. All cells are still together. The second image shows where the data hasn’t sorted correctly. Only column C sorted. If this happens click Undo and start again.
List sorted correctly
List sorted incorrectly. Only the data in column C has been sorted.
Using the Sort buttons
1. Select a cell in the column you wish to sort on.
Note: if you select the table of data prior to clicking one of the sort buttons, the data will sort based on the column the cell selector is currently sitting in.
2. On the Data tab in the Sort & Filter group click the Sort A to Z or Sort Z to A tool. BTW, these buttons can also be found on the Home tab, in the Editing group on the Sort & Filter button.
Tip: to sort from A to Z or from the smallest number to the largest, click Sort A to Z. To sort from Z to A or from the largest number to the smallest click Sort Z to A.
WARNING: be careful when selecting just a single column and then clicking a sort button as this will only sort the selected data. If you accidently do this a dialog box will be displayed.
Be sure to select Expand the selection to include ALL of the row data within the sort. If you make a mistake and click Continue with the current selection you might like to click Undo or close your file without saving.
Using the Data Sort command
Using this command, you can set up second and third levels of sorting as well as specify whether you wish to sort by rows or columns.
1. Select the range you want to sort including the column headings.
2. On the Data tab in the Sort & Filter group click Sort. The Sort dialog box will appear.
3. If the first row of your database is headings, select the My data has headers option. This will ensure the headings are not included in the sort range.
4. From the Sort by drop down list box select the field name that the sort is to be governed by. Select what the data will be sorted on – values, cell or font colour or cell icon. Specify the sort order. If you would like to perform another level of sorting (a sort within a sort) click the Add Level button.
In the example above, three levels of sort have been defined.
This means that the data will first be sorted so that all customer names are alphabetically grouped first.
The second level of sort means that all of the Product Types, within each Customer Name group will be sorted alphabetically.
The third level will sort Total Sales $ values so that for each Product Type group the largest sale is shown at the top of the list and the smallest at the bottom.
You can see in the image below step 5 the result. ‘A N Example’ has been displayed with all Product Types being sorted within the group, e.g. Cans, Fresh Fruit. The largest sale for each Product Type is shown in the Total Sale $ column.
5. Finally, click OK to perform the sort.
Note: use the Move Up and Move Down buttons on the Sort dialog box to change the importance of a sort level. Click Delete Level to remove a level or Copy Level to copy an existing level as a new level.
Sharyn is an expert trainer. She became the first certified Microsoft® MOUS Authorised Instructor in New Zealand.
She is endorsed by Microsoft® as a qualified Microsoft® Office Specialist and has more than 20 years of experience in the training industry, developing and delivering technology training workshops. Her approach to taking the “techie-speak” out of technology training has placed her as a preferred supplier to many of New Zealand’s leading organisations.
If you enjoyed this you may also enjoy...
Let’s look at how to freeze a row in Excel. It can be a real pain when you don’t have freeze panes on, and when you start to scroll down the screen you lose the headings at the top of your columns.
Learn how to use Conditional Formatting to identify cells that are of interest. For example, you can apply a Conditional Format that checks to see a cell’s value is greater than $500. If it is the Conditional Format can change the Fill colour of the cell. Therefore making it really easy for you (and others using
Learn how to find, modify and break links to an Excel workbook. Linking is great, until you no longer need it. Then it can be a bit of a pain. A couple of challenges may come your way if you weren’t the creator of the workbook that contains links. One challenge is identifying where the linked data
Learn how to link Link cells in the same or different Excel worksheets. Linking saves a huge amount of time (and a huge amount of mistakes) in that it allows you to create connections from one cell to another.
Use the SUMIF function to total only the cells that match your requirement. For example, if you wanted to know the total sales made by one of your sales team members you can use the SUMIF function to only add to the total the sales made by a certain member. Gold! This function saves you a
Learn how to insert an Excel function into your workbook. Excel comes equipped with a large number of pre-defined formulas. These are known as functions. There is a great amount of functions available in Excel. Each created for a specific purpose. There are functions specific to Maths, Science, Finance, and Engineering to name a few.