Data Groups & Formulas:

Title: Jan's Illustrated Computer Literacy 101
Did you want Working with Numbers: 2007,2010,2013,2016  or españolIcon: Change web

Sorting can be done in Excel from a dialog or with a toolbar button.

Dialog: SortThe dialog has options of how to sort and allows 3 levels of sorting. For example, you could sort on Last Name, First Name, and then Middle Name.
The Sort Ascending and Sort Descending buttons Buttons: Sort Ascending and Sort Descending do their sorting based only on the first column in the selection.

Excel remembers what sorting options you picked before for this spreadsheet. The dialog will display them automatically. But the Sort Ascending and Sort Descending buttons do not show what they are going to do!

TipIf your sort does not work as expected, check in the Sort dialog under Options. Perhaps a custom list is being used because it was used before.

Where you are:
JegsWorks > Lessons > Numbers

Before you start...

Project 1: Excel IntroTo subtopics

Project 2: Excel BasicsTo subtopics    

Project 3: Format & ArrangeTo subtopics

Project 4: Groups & Formulas
    Subtotals To subtopics
    FootprintFormat Groups
    Images & DrawingsTo subtopics
    Changes & FormulasTo subtopics
    ExercisesTo subtopics

Project 5: DesignTo subtopics


Sort Order

  • Numbers: normal numerical order.
  • Text: alphabetical order
  • Combination of text and numbers:
    0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 (space) ! " # $ % & ( ) * , . / : ; ? @ [ \ ] ^ _ ` { | } ~ + < = > A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

You may be surprised at how combinations are sorted. For example, in ID numbers like A10, A11, A100, A120, Excel treats the numbers as text. Excel sorts text by looking at the characters from left to right. The first and second characters from the left in this example are the same, A and 1. Sorting on the third character from the left puts 0 before 1 and 1 before 2. That makes sense until you look at the results of the sorting:

Apostrophes (') and hyphens (-) are usually ignored. The only exception: If two text strings are the same except for a hyphen, the text with the hyphen is sorted last.

Icon Step-by-Step

Step-by-Step: Sort

 Icon Step-by-Step

What you will learn:

to copy a whole sheet
to sort on first column
to sort on multiple columns
to sort with a custom list

Start with: Class disk trips21.xls (saved in previous lesson)

You have decided to look at the subtotals for each of the three travel agents who handled the special offers.

The data on the sheet Specials is currently arranged by Trip. You could pick out the trips for each agent yourself and add them up. You could easily overlook one though, even in a list as short as this one.

Excel's Subtotal command will be very useful in this situation. But, if you subtotal right now, you will get subtotals where the trip changes in the first column. To get subtotals for travel agents, you must rearrange the data so that the rows for each travel agent are grouped together. The data will be easier to read if Travel Agent is the first column.

Warning Before you sort, be sure that you selected all the data that goes together on each row.

  1. Class diskOpen  trips21.xls  on your Class disk in the excel project3 folder.
  2. Class diskSave As  trips22.xls  to your Class disk in the excel project4 folder.
    Full floppy disk How to handle a full disk
  3. Change the header for each sheet to read Excel Project 4. [Hint: Select all the sheet tabs at once and edit the header. Do not forget to ungroup the sheets!]

Copy: Sheet

  1. Popup Menu: Move or CopySelect the sheet Specials. Right click on the sheet tab and from the popup menu select  Move or Copy…  The Move or Copy dialog appears.
  2. Dialog: Move or CopyLeave in the To book text box  trips22.xls .
  3. Select in the Before sheet text box Tahiti.
  4. Check Create a copy.
  5. Click on OK.
    A new sheet named Specials(2) appears containing a copy of the data on the sheet Specials.
  6. Rename the new sheet  Agents Totals . (Hint: Double-click the tab and type. Press ENTER.) Sheet tab: Agent Totals
  7. Delete Rows 25 through 38 since they don't relate to the agents.

Move: Travel Agent column

The table will read better if its first column is the one you sorted on. You will need to move the Travel Agent column to the far left.

  1. Select column B, the Travel Agent's column.
  2. Message: Cannot change part of a merged cellRight drag and drop at the left of column A. From the popup menu select  Shift Right and Move . Whoops! A message appears. By selecting the whole column, you also caught the merged title cells. You will have to try this another way.
  3. Select cells B4:B23, the cells in the Travel Agent column that actually have data.
  4. Right drag the selection and drop at the left of column A. From the popup menu select  Shift Right and Move . Success!
    The Travel Agent data is moved to column A and the Trip data is shifted over to column B.
  5. Travel Agent columns moved leftAutoFit columns A and B.


Sort: Dialog - on Travel Agent

Next you will to sort the table to get each travel agent's data together.

A natural sorting method would be to use the Sort dialog and choose to sort by Travel Agent, then Trip, and then Customer. But the trips would be in alphabetical order instead of the Custom List order. You can only apply a Custom List to the first column sorted. You will have to do the sort in two steps to continue using the Custom List order for the trips.

  1. In the Name Box, type A4:F23 to select that range.
  2. Dialog: Sort on Travel Agent, Trip, CustomerFrom the menu select  Data  |  Sort…  The Sort dialog opens.
  3. Match the choices in the illustration: Travel Agent first, then Trip, then Customer. Select Header row, since your selection includes row 4.

    TipIf you do not include the header row in your selection, the column labels do not show in the drop lists, just column headers - A, B, C...

  4. Dialog: Sort Options - NormalClick on the Options... button. The Sort Options dialog opens. Be sure that Normal is showing.
  5. Click OK to close Sort Options and then OK again to close the Sort dialog

    The data is sorted alphabetically by Travel Agent. Within each travel agent's rows, the rows are sorted by trip. Within each travel agent's trips, the customers are sorted in alphabetical order. 

    Sorted on Travel Agent, Trips, and Customer - normal alphabetic order

    Sorted on Travel Agent, Trip, Customer with Normal order

    But wait! You have been using a custom list for the Trips = Tahiti, New Zealand, World, Other

    In the Sort Options dialog you can pick a custom list to sort by - but it applies only to the first column in the sort. Trip is the second column.

    You will need to work a little harder to apply your custom list.

Sort: Dialog - Chavez rows only

  1. Dialog: SortSelect the column labels and the data cells for Travel Agent Chavez. [A4:F12]
  2. From the menu select  Data  |  Sort…  The Sort dialog opens.
  3. Click on the radio button for Header row.
  4. Select to sort first on Trip and then on Customer.
  5. Sort OptionsClick on the Options button and select your Custom List of trips - Tahiti, New Zealand, World, Other.

    Click OK to close the Options dialog. Click OK to close the Sort dialog.

    Chavez sortedThe trips that Chavez handled are sorted in your custom list order! The other rows remain the same.


Sort: Gardner & Heinz

  1. Dialog: Sort on col. B and col. CRepeat the procedure to Sort the rows for the other two agents, Gardner and Heinz. These two do not have a header row directly above, so you will have to use Column headings in the Sort dialog rather than column labels.

    [Hint: Select rows for travel agent. Data | Sort. Sort by Column B, then Column C. No header row. Set Options to the Custom list.]

  2. Class diskSave. [trips22.xls
    Full floppy disk How to handle a full disk


    All rows sorted by Travel Agent and Trip and Customer

    Sorted by Travel Agent
    Trip and Customer with custom list