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Sorting Data in Excel 2003

Use these tips to prevent problems when sorting in Excel. How to sort two or more columns, sort by row, sort in a Custom Order. For Excel 2007 and later, see the Sorting Data Basics page

Using the Sort Buttons

In Excel, it's easy to sort your data by using the Sort buttons on the toolbar. But, be careful, or one column may be sorted, while others are not.

  1. Select one cell in the column you want to sort.
  2. Click Sort Ascending (A to Z, smallest to largest) or Sort Descending (Z to A, largest to smallest)
  3. Before you do anything else, check the data, to ensure that the rows have sorted correctly. If things look wrong, click the Undo button on the toolbar. go to top

sort buttons

Sort Data by One Column

  1. Select all the cells in the list.
    This is the safest approach to sorting. In most cases, you can select one cell and Excel will correctly detect the rest of the list -- but it's not 100% certain. Some of the data may be missed.
  2. Choose Data>Sort
  3. From the Sort by dropdown, select the column you want to sort. Note: If the dropdown is showing Column letters instead of headings, change the setting for My list has, from No header row to Header row.
  4. Select to sort in Ascending or Descending order
  5. Click OK go to top

sort dialog box

Sort Data by 2-3 Columns

  1. Select all the cells in the list.
  2. Choose Data>Sort
  3. From the Sort by dropdown, select the first column you want to sort.
  4. Select to sort in Ascending or Descending order
  5. From the Then by dropdown, select the second column you want to sort.
  6. Select to sort in Ascending or Descending order
  7. From the Then by dropdown, select the third column you want to sort.
  8. Select to sort in Ascending or Descending order
  9. Click OK go to top

Sort Data by 2-3 Columns

Sort Data by 4+ Columns

Occasionally, you may need to sort by more than three columns. For example, in a mailing list, you may want to sort by Country, Region, City, and Name. To do this, you can sort the list multiple times, starting with the least important sort.

In the mailing list, there are four columns to sort. Name and City are the least important fields in the sorting process, so they can be sorted first.

Sort Data by 4+ Columns

  1. Select all the cells in the list.
  2. Choose Data>Sort
  3. From the Sort by dropdown, select City.
  4. From the Then by dropdown, select Name.
  5. Click OK

Excel will retain what it can of this sort while you sort by the remaining fields.

  1. With all the cells still selected, choose Data>Sort
  2. From the Sort by dropdown, select Country.
  3. From the Then by dropdown, select Region.
  4. Click OK go to top

After sorting, the list is sorted by Country, then by Region, then by City and finally by Name.

list sorted by 4 columns

More Tutorials

Sort Data With Macros

Sorting Data Basics

Sort a Row in Excel

Numbers Don't Sort Correctly

 

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Last updated: December 27, 2016 2:54 PM
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