Sorting Data in Excel
When should you use Excel's "Sort"?
Whenever you wish to rearrange the rows of a table in a useful and practical order.
For example: arranging a table of students by their last names in alphabetical order, or arranging a list of bank accounts by the account number.
You can also arrange by two or more criteria:
For example, Let’s assume you are a high school principal, and you have a list of all your pupils.
You might want to arrange your list and organize it by three categories:
First, by the different grades (in ascending order, from lower to higher), then within every grade by the different classes, and then within every class, by the pupil’s last name in alphabetical order.
Initially, when the Excel program came out, you were limited to sort by up to 3 different criteria only. In recent versions of Excel it is possible to sort by up to 64 different criteria! But only on rare occasions you will need to use more than three. The need does arise when dealing with databases of thousands of records.
Rules for successful sorting
Before sorting, make sure your table of data meets all of the following criteria:
- There are no empty rows nor empty columns inside the table. If there are empty rows or columns, Excel will sort only part of the table, while leaving the rest unsorted.
- The first row of the table should be a titles row, and every column has its own unique title.
- Leave a blank row above the titles row of the table (this is unnecessary if the table starts at the first row of the worksheet).
Remember you can freely click the “Undo” button in case things didn’t turn out the way you expected them to be.
How to sort - step by step:
- Click inside the column you wish to sort by (it doesn’t matter where exactly, as long as it is inside the relevant column).
- Click the “Sort & Filter” button.
- Choose the sorting order:
- For numerical values, you can choose from “Largest to Smallest” or “Smallest to Largest”.
- For textual values, you can choose from “A to Z” or “Z to A”.
- For dates values, you can choose from “Oldest to Newest” or “Newest to Oldest”.
Your data is now sorted.
If you get the following message “The command could not be completed by using the range specified…” it means you forgot to click inside the table before trying to sort.