Sort data in a range or table

Sorting data is an integral part of data analysis. You might want to arrange a list of names in alphabetical order, compile a list of product inventory levels from highest to lowest, or order rows by colors or icons. Sorting data helps you quickly visualize and understand your data better, organize and find the data that you want, and ultimately make more effective decisions.

 Note   To find the top or bottom values in a range of cells or table, such as the top 10 grades or the bottom 5 sales amounts, use AutoFilter or conditional formatting (conditional format: A format, such as cell shading or font color, that Excel automatically applies to cells if a specified condition is true.).

For more information, see Filter data in a range or table and Add, change, find, or clear conditional formats.

What do you want to do?


Learn about sorting

You can sort data by text (A to Z or Z to A), numbers (smallest to largest or largest to smallest), and dates and times (oldest to newest and newest to oldest) in one or more columns. You can also sort by a custom list (such as Large, Medium, and Small) or by format, including cell color, font color, or icon set. Most sort operations are column sorts, but you can also sort by rows.

Sort criteria for an Excel table are saved with the workbook so that you can reapply the sort to that table each time that you open the workbook, but sort criteria are not saved for a range of cells. If you want to save sort criteria so that you can periodically reapply a sort when you open a workbook, it's a good idea to use a table. This is especially important for multicolumn sorts or for sorts that take a long time to create.

When you reapply a sort, different results may appear for the following reasons:

  • Data has been modified, added to, or deleted from the range of cells or table column.
  • Values returned by a formula have changed and the worksheet has been recalculated.

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Sort text

  1. Select a column of alphanumeric data in a range of cells, or make sure that the active cell is in a table column containing alphanumeric data.
  2. On the Data tab, in the Sort & Filter group, do one of the following:
  • To sort in ascending alphanumeric order, click Button Image Sort A to Z.
  • To sort in descending alphanumeric order, click Button Image Sort Z to A.
  1. Optionally, you can do a case-sensitive sort:
  1. On the Data tab, in the Sort & Filter group, click Sort.

The Sort & Filter group on the Data tab

  1. In the Sort dialog box, click Options.

    The Sort Options dialog box appears.
  2. In the Sort Options dialog box, select Case sensitive.
  3. Click OK twice.
  1. To reapply a sort after you change the data, click a cell in the range or table and then, on the Data tab, in the Sort & Filter group, click Reapply.

Issue: Check that all data is stored as text    If the column that you want to sort contains numbers stored as numbers and numbers stored as text, you need to format them all as text. If you do not apply this format, the numbers stored as numbers are sorted before the numbers stored as text. To format all the selected data as text, on the Home tab, in the Font group, click the Format Cell Font button, click the Number tab and then, under Category, click Text.

Issue: Remove any leading spaces    In some cases, data imported from another application might have leading spaces inserted before data. Remove the leading spaces before you sort the data. You can do this manually, or you can use the TRIM function.

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Sort numbers

  1. Select a column of numeric data in a range of cells, or make sure that the active cell is in a table column containing numeric data.
  2. On the Data tab, in the Sort & Filter group, do one of the following:
  • To sort from low numbers to high numbers, click Button Image Sort Smallest to Largest.
  • To sort from high numbers to low numbers, click Button Image Sort Largest to Smallest.

Issue: Check that all numbers are stored as numbers    If the results are not what you expected, the column might contain numbers stored as text instead of as numbers. For example, negative numbers imported from some accounting systems or a number entered with a leading apostrophe (') are stored as text.

For more information, see Convert numbers stored as text to numbers.

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Sort dates or times

  1. Select a column of dates or times in a range of cells, or make sure that the active cell is in a table column containing dates or times.
  2. Select a column of dates or times in a range of cells or table.
  3. On the Data tab, in the Sort & Filter group, do one of the following:
  • To sort from an earlier to a later date or time, click Button Image Sort Oldest to Newest.
  • To sort from a later to an earlier date or time, click Button Image Sort Newest to Oldest.
  1. To reapply a sort after you change the data, click a cell in the range or table and then, on the Data tab, in the Sort & Filter group, click Reapply.

Issue: Check that dates and times are stored as dates or times    If the results are not what you expected, the column might contain dates or times stored as text instead of as dates or times. For Excel to sort dates and times correctly, all dates and times in a column must be stored as a date or time serial number. If Excel cannot recognize a value as a date or time, the date or time is stored as text.

For more information, see Convert dates stored as text to dates.

 Note    If you want to sort by days of the week, format the cells to show the day of the week. If you want to sort by the day of the week regardless of the date, convert them to text by using the TEXT function. However, the TEXT function returns a text value, and so the sort operation would be based on alphanumeric data.

For more information, see Show dates as days of the week.

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Sort by cell color, font color, or icon

If you have manually or conditionally formatted a range of cells or a table column by cell color or font color, you can also sort by these colors. You can also sort by an icon set that you created by applying a conditional format.

  1. Select a column of data in a range of cells, or make sure that the active cell is in a table column.
  2. On the Data tab, in the Sort & Filter group, click Sort.

The Sort & Filter group on the Data tab

The Sort dialog box appears.

  1. Under Column, in the Sort by box, select the column that you want to sort.
  2. Under Sort On, select the type of sort. Do one of the following:
    • To sort by cell color, select Cell Color.
    • To sort by font color, select Font Color.
    • To sort by an icon set, select Cell Icon.
  3. Under Order, click the arrow next to the button and then, depending on the type of format, select a cell color, font color, or cell icon.
  4. Under Order, select how you want to sort. Do one of the following:
    • To move the cell color, font color, or icon to the top or to the left, select On Top for a column sort, and On Left for a row sort.
    • To move the cell color, font color, or icon to the bottom or to the right, select On Bottom for a column sort, and On Right for a row sort.

 Note   There is no default cell color, font color, or icon sort order. You must define the order that you want for each sort operation.

  1. To specify the next cell color, font color, or icon to sort by, click Add Level, and then repeat steps three through five.

Make sure that you select the same column in the Then by box and that you make the same selection under Order.

Keep repeating for each additional cell color, font color, or icon that you want included in the sort.

  1. To reapply a sort after you change the data, click a cell in the range or table and then, on the Data tab, in the Sort & Filter group, click Reapply.

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Sort by a custom list

You can use a custom list to sort in a user-defined order. For example, a column might contain values that you want to sort by, such as High, Medium, and Low. How can you sort so that rows containing High appear first, followed by Medium, and then Low? If you were to sort alphabetically, an “A to Z” sort would put High at the top, but Low would come before Medium. And if you sorted “Z to A,” Medium would appear first, with Low in the middle. Regardless of the order, you always want “Medium” in the middle. By creating your own custom list, you can get around this problem.

In addition to custom lists, Excel provides built-in, day-of-the-week and month-of-the year custom lists.

  1. Optionally, create the custom list:
    1. In a range of cells, enter the values that you want to sort by, in the order that you want them, from top to bottom. For example:
A
1 High
2 Medium
3 Low
  1. Select the range that you just entered. Using the preceding example, select cells A1:A3.
  2. Click the File tab, click Options, and then click the Advanced category.
  3. Under General, click Edit Custom Lists.
  4. In the Custom Lists dialog box, click Import, and then click OK twice.

 Notes 

  • You can create a custom list based only on a value (text, number, and date or time). You cannot create a custom list based on a format (cell color, font color, or icon).
  • The maximum length for a custom list is 255 characters, and the first character must not begin with a number.
  1. Select a column of data in a range of cells, or make sure that the active cell is in a table column.
  2. On the Data tab, in the Sort & Filter group, click Sort.

The Sort & Filter group on the Data tab

The Sort dialog box appears.

  1. Under Column, in the Sort by or Then by box, select the column that you want to sort by a custom list.
  2. Under Order, select Custom List.
  3. In the Custom Lists dialog box, select the list that you want. Using the custom list that you created in the preceding example, click High, Medium, Low.
  4. Click OK.
  5. To reapply a sort after you change the data, click a cell in the range or table and then, on the Data tab, in the Sort & Filter group, click Reapply.

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    Sort rows

    1. Select a row of data in a range of cells, or make sure that the active cell is in a table column.
    2. On the Data tab, in the Sort & Filter group, click Sort.

    The Sort & Filter group on the Data tab

    The Sort dialog box appears.

    1. Click Options.
    2. In the Sort Options dialog box, under Orientation, click Sort left to right, and then click OK.
    3. Under Column, in the Sort by box, select the row that you want to sort.
    4. Do one of the following:

    Sort by value    

    1. Under Sort On, select Values.
    2. Under Order, do one of the following:
      • For text values, select A to Z or Z to A.
      • For number values, select Smallest to Largest or Largest to Smallest.
      • For date or time values, select Oldest to Newest or Newest to Oldest.

    Sort by cell color, font color, or cell icon    

    1. Under Sort On, select Cell Color, Font Color, or Cell Icon.
    2. Click the arrow next to the button, and then select a cell color, font color, or cell icon.
    3. Under Order, select On Left or On Right.
    1. To reapply a sort after you change the data, click a cell in the range or table and then, on the Data tab, in the Sort & Filter group, click Reapply.

     Note    When you sort rows that are part of a worksheet outline, Excel sorts the highest-level groups (level 1) so that the detail rows or columns stay together, even if the detail rows or columns are hidden.

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    Sort by more than one column or row

    You may want to sort by more than one column or row when you have data that you want to group by the same value in one column or row, and then sort another column or row within that group of equal values. For example, if you have a Department column and an Employee column, you can first sort by Department (to group all the employees in the same department together), and then sort by name (to put the names in alphabetical order within each department). You can sort by up to 64 columns.

     Note   For best results, the range of cells that you sort should have column headings.

    1. Select a range of cells with two or more columns of data, or make sure that the active cell is in a table with two or more columns.
    2. On the Data tab, in the Sort & Filter group, click Sort.

    The Sort & Filter group on the Data tab

    The Sort dialog box appears.

    1. Under Column, in the Sort by box, select the first column that you want to sort.
    2. Under Sort On, select the type of sort. Do one of the following:
      • To sort by text, number, or date and time, select Values.
      • To sort by format, select Cell Color, Font Color, or Cell Icon.
    3. Under Order, select how you want to sort. Do one of the following:
      • For text values, select A to Z or Z to A.
      • For number values, select Smallest to Largest or Largest to Smallest.
      • For date or time values, select Oldest to Newest or Newest to Oldest.
      • To sort based on a custom list, select Custom List.
    4. To add another column to sort by, click Add Level, and then repeat steps three through five.
    5. To copy a column to sort by, select the entry and then click Copy Level.
    6. To delete a column to sort by, select the entry and then click Delete Level.

     Note   You must keep at least one entry in the list.

    1. To change the order in which the columns are sorted, select an entry and then click the Up or Down arrow to change the order.

      Entries higher in the list are sorted before entries lower in the list.
    2. To reapply a sort after you change the data, click a cell in the range or table and then, on the Data tab, in the Sort & Filter group, click Reapply.

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    Sort by a partial value in a column

    To sort by a part of a value in a column, such as a part number code (789-WDG-34), last name (Carol Philips), or first name (Philips, Carol), you first need to split the column into two or more columns so that the value you want to sort by is in its own column. To do this, you can use text functions to separate the parts of the cells or you can use the Convert Text to Columns Wizard.

    For examples and more information, see Split names by using the Convert Text to Columns Wizard and Split text among columns by using functions.

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    Sort one column in a range of cells without affecting the others

     Warning   Be careful when using this feature. Sorting by one column in a range may produce results that you don't want, such as moving cells in that column away from other cells in the same row.

     Note   You cannot do the following procedure in a table.

    1. Select a column in a range of cells containing two or more columns.
    2. To select the column that you want to sort, click the column heading.
    3. On the Home tab, in the Editing group, click Sort & Filter, and then click one of the available sort commands.
      The Sort Warning dialog box appears.
    4. Select Continue with the current selection.
    5. Click Sort.
    6. Select any other sort options that you want in the Sort dialog box, and then click OK.

    If the results are not what you want, click Undo Undo button.

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    Learn more about general issues with sorting

    If you get unexpected results when sorting your data, do the following:

    Check to see if the values returned by a formula have changed    If the data that you have sorted contains one or more formulas, the return values of those formulas might change when the worksheet is recalculated. In this case, make sure that you reapply the sort to get up-to-date results.

    Unhide rows and columns before you sort    Hidden columns are not moved when you sort columns, and hidden rows are not moved when you sort rows. Before you sort data, it's a good idea to unhide the hidden columns and rows.

    Check the locale setting    Sort orders vary by locale setting. Make sure that you have the proper locale setting in Regional Settings or Regional and Language Options in Control Panel on your computer. For information about changing the locale setting, see the Windows help system.

    Enter column headings in only one row    If you need multiple line labels, wrap the text within the cell.

    Turn on or off the heading row    It's usually best to have a heading row when you sort a column to make it easier to understand the meaning of the data. By default, the value in the heading is not included in the sort operation. Occasionally, you may need to turn the heading on or off so that the value in the heading is or is not included in the sort operation. Do one of the following:

    • To exclude the first row of data from the sort because it is a column heading, on the Home tab, in the Editing group, click Sort & Filter, click Custom Sort and then select My data has headers.
    • To include the first row of data in the sort because it is not a column heading, on the Home tab, in the Editing group, click Sort & Filter, click Custom Sort, and then clear My data has headers.

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    Applies to:
    Excel 2010