How to Sort in Excel: A Comprehensive Guide

Learn how to sort data in Excel by row, column names, and custom orders. Our step-by-step guide makes Excel sorting easy and efficient.

Learn how to sort data in Excel by row, column names, and custom orders. Our step-by-step guide makes Excel sorting easy and efficient.

How to Sort in Excel: Row, Column Names and in Custom Order

How to sort in Excel is a fundamental skill that can save you time and effort. Knowing how to sort your data by row, column names, or a custom order can help you analyze it and draw insights from it. 

Don't let sorting in Excel be a daunting task. Let us help you streamline your workflow and improve your productivity.

In this article, we'll guide you through the sorting steps in Excel, whether you're a beginner or an advanced user.

We'll also provide you with examples and tips on how to sort your data and cover some common sorting problems you may encounter.

TL;DR: How to sort in Excel?

  1. Select a single cell in the column you want to sort.
  2. On the Data tab, in the Sort & Filter group, click. To perform an ascending sort (from A to Z, or smallest number to largest).
    Sort data excel
  3. Click. to perform a descending sort (from Z to A, or largest number to smallest).

What is Excel Sorting and Why is it Important?

Excel Sorting is a way of organizing information in a spreadsheet to make it easier to understand. It's like putting things in order, such as from A to Z or the biggest to the smallest number.

Sorting is important because it helps you find more important information. For example, if you have a lot of sales data, sorting it from highest to lowest can show you which products or regions sell the most. Sorting by date can also help you see how things change over time.

By sorting your data, you can save time and work more. Instead of looking through all your information to find what you need, you can find it and focus on understanding it.

How to Sort Data in Excel by Column or Row?

Sort data in excel by row or column

To sort by a single column:

  1. Click on any cell in the column you want to sort (e.g., "Age")
  2. Click the "Sort A to Z" or "Sort Z to A" button in the "Data" tab of the ribbon.
    Sort data in excel by a single column

To sort by multiple columns:

  1. Select the entire table and click the "Sort" button in the "Data" tab of the ribbon. 
  2. In the "Sort" dialog box, select the first column to sort by (e.g., "Name").
  3. Select the second column to sort by (e.g., "Age").
  4. Click the "Sort A to Z" or "Sort Z to A" button in the "Data" tab of the ribbon.
Sort data in exce by multiple columns

To sort in a custom order:

  1. Select the column you want to sort and then click the "Sort" button in the "Data" tab of the ribbon.
  2. In the "Sort" dialog box, select "Custom List" from the "Order" dropdown menu;
    Sort data in excel in Custom order
  3. and then select the custom order you want to use (e.g., "Canada", "USA", "Australia", "France", "Mexico").
    Sort data in Excel in Custom order

To sort by row:

  1. Select the entire row that you want to sort.
  2. Click the "Custom Sort" button in the "Data" tab of the ribbon.
  3. In the "Sort" dialog box, select "Sort Options" in the choose "Sort left to right” option on the menu.
Sort data by row

Why Use Excel's Custom Sort Feature?

Excel’s custom sort feature helps organize data better. Sorting data is useful, but sometimes we need more specific ways to sort it. This is where custom sorting comes in. 

For example, imagine you have a list of products that must be sorted by size. The built-in sorting options can alphabetize the list, but you need it to sort by small, medium, and large sizes. With custom sorting, you can create a list that includes these sizes and sort the data as needed.

Custom sorting is also useful for dates. Excel sorts dates, but there may be more useful ways to sort data. For example, if you have a list of appointments, you can sort them by day of the week instead of by date. 

With custom sorting, you can create a list of days of the week and sort the data that way. This makes it easier to analyze your data and find what you need.

What are the Common Mistakes to Avoid When Sorting in Excel?

Sorting in Excel is a useful tool, but it's important to avoid common mistakes that can lead to errors.

  • Not backing up your data before sorting can cause irreversible damage. Always make a backup before sorting.
  • Not double-checking your data after sorting. Reviewing your data helps catch any errors introduced during the sorting process.
  • It's also important to fix any blank rows and columns before sorting. Excel may not sort data that includes blank rows or columns. Deleting any unnecessary blank rows or columns can help avoid this problem.

Select the entire range of data you want, or Excel may not sort your data as intended. Avoiding these common mistakes can help ensure that your sorting in Excel is accurate and reliable and that your data is ready for analysis.

What are Some Best Practices for Sorting Data in Excel?

Sorting data in Excel can help you organize and analyze large sets of information. To ensure that your data is sorted, here are some best practices to follow:

  1. First, highlight the rows and columns you want to sort. You can do this by clicking and dragging over the cells you want to include.
  2. Next, navigate to the 'Data' tab at the screen's top and select 'Sort.' This will open the 'Sort' dialog box.
  3. If you are sorting by column, select the column by which you want to order your sheet. If you are sorting by row, click 'Options' and select 'Sort left to right.' This will allow you to select the rows by which you want to order your sheet.
  4. Once you have selected your sorting option, choose what you want to sort. You can sort by values, cell color, font color, or even by a custom list. You can also sort by many columns or rows by selecting the 'Add level' button.
  5. Finally, choose how you want to order your sheet in ascending or descending order.

By following these best practices, you can ensure that your data is perfectly sorted in Excel.

How do I automate sorting in Excel?

Sorting data in Excel can be time-consuming, but there are ways to automate it to save you time and effort. Here are some simple ways to automate sorting in Excel:

  • Create a Table: Convert your data into a table using the "Format as Table" feature. This will give you built-in sorting and filtering options that can help you sort your data quickly and easily.
  • Use Filter Views: If you only need to see a part of your data, you can create filter views that show only the data you want to see. You can then sort the filtered data as needed.
  • Use Macros: Macros are a way to automate repetitive tasks in Excel, including sorting. You can record a macro that sorts your data and assign it to a keyboard shortcut or a button on the Ribbon.
  • Use Formulas: If you need to sort data based on specific criteria, you can use formulas to automate the process. For example, you can use the "LARGE" function to sort a range of cells based on their values.
Automated sorting of data in excel

By automating sorting in Excel, you can save time and avoid errors that can happen when sorting data manually. With these simple techniques, you can easily sort your data and focus on analyzing it to gain insights and make informed decisions.

What to Do When Excel Sorting is Not Working?

Sometimes Excel sorting may not work, which can be frustrating. One common issue is that the data may not sort due to a leading space ahead of the text.

This can happen if there is an extra space before the text in the cells, which causes Excel to treat it as a different value. To solve this issue, you can use the TRIM function to remove any leading or trailing spaces in the cells.

To use the TRIM function, select the range of cells you want to remove the spaces from, then enter the formula =TRIM(cell) in a new column next to the data. This will remove any leading or trailing spaces from the cells in that column.

You can then copy and paste the corrected data back into the original column and try sorting it again. This should resolve the issue and allow you to sort your data correctly.

When Excel sorting is not working, checking for leading spaces in the data is a crucial first step in troubleshooting the issue. By using the TRIM function to remove these spaces, you can ensure that your data sorts and is organized for analysis.

Conclusion

Sorting by rows is useful when you want to sort data in a specific row, such as sorting sales data by date. 

Sorting by columns is useful when you want to sort data in a specific column, such as sorting a list of names alphabetically. 

Custom sorting allows you to sort data based on your own criteria, such as sorting clothing sizes from small to large. 

By following these simple steps, you can quickly and easily sort your data in Excel to make it more organized and easier to analyze.

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