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How To Sort In Excel

You can sort your Excel data on one column or multiple columns. You can sort in ascending or descending order.

One Column

To sort on one column, execute the following steps.

Result:

Multiple Columns

To sort on multiple columns, execute the following steps.

The Sort dialog box appears.

2. Select Last Name from the ‘Sort by’ drop-down list.

4. Select Sales from the ‘Then by’ drop-down list.

Result. Records are sorted by Last Name first and Sales second.

Revert To Original Sort Order In Excel

Bottom line: Learn how to retain and revert to the original sort order of a range or table in Excel.

Skill level: Beginner

Video Tutorial

Often times we receive a data set that does not have a column of sequential numbers or dates. If we sort one or more columns in the range, it can be difficult or impossible to revert back to the original sort order.

One way to solve this problem is to add a column of sequential numbers to the data set. I typically refer to this as an index column.

After sorting the data you can then go back and sort the index column to restore the original sort order.

Setting up the Index Column

It’s important to setup the index column BEFORE you apply any sorting to the data.

Here are the steps to create the index column:

Type a 1 in a blank column to the right of the data range/table.

Select Series from the Auto Fill Options menu to create a sequential list of numbers 1,2,3,…

IMPORTANT: If you are NOT using an Excel Table then you will need to reapply the filters to include this new column. This must be done BEFORE you sort the other columns so that the index column is included in the sort.

If you are using an Excel Table then you do not have to worry about step 4. The new column will automatically be included in the table as long as you create it directly to the right of the last column. See the video above for more details.

Checkout my video on a Beginner’s Guide to Excel Tables to learn more about the benefits of using this awesome feature of Excel.

Here is another method for using the fill handle.

Checkout my article on Fill Handle Hacks to learn more about this technique.

Other Techniques for Retaining Sort Order?

My friend Robbie asked me this question about retaining sort order the other day, which sparked the idea for this post, and this index column method is the one I’ve always used.

I’ve also mentioned it before in my article on how to prevent Excel from freezing when deleting rows.

However, I’m curious to know if you have other techniques or methods to solve this problem. Is there a different or better way?

Sorting And Filtering Data With Excel

As you can see, the order dates, order numbers, prices, etc. are all out of order. Let’s get started on running some sorting and filtering techniques.

Sorting Data

Go down to the Sort option – when hovering over Sort the sub-menu will appear

Select Expand the selection

The whole table has now adjusted for the sorted column. Note: when the data in one column is related to the data in the remaining columns of the table, you want to select Expand the selection. This will ensure the data in that row carries over with sorted column data.

Filtering Data

The filter feature applies a drop down menu to each column heading, allowing you to select specific choices to narrow a table. Using the above example, let’s say you wanted to filter your table by Company and Salesperson. Specifically, you want to find the number of sales Dylan Rogers made to Eastern Company.

To do this using the filter you would:

Go to the Data tab on Excel ribbon

Select the Filter tool

Select Eastern Company from the dropdown menu

Select Dylan Rogers from the Salesperson dropdown menu

Boom – you now have the exact number of sales Dylan Rogers made to Eastern Company.

The Sort & Filter Tool

In the following GIF, we can see how the Custom Sorting tool can be used to sort date ranges or price ranges.

But notice how this example is either/or. What if you wanted to sort by date and by price? This where the Custom Sort option really comes in handy. After selecting your first sorting conditions, you can add a level to get event more accurate data:

As you can see, Excel offers a variety of sorting and filtering tools to help you refine your data and keep it organized. We hope you found today’s tips useful. Now go out there and get your data sorted!

Use Learn Excel Now to help with all your Excel questions and training needs.  We’re not just experts in Excel, there is content, free resources, and training courses available for Word, Outlook and more.

3 Ways To Sort By Color In Excel

There are several ways to sort data in Microsoft Excel. Learn how to use conditional sorting in Excel to sort by font color, cell background color, or icon color.

Instructions in this article apply to Excel for Microsoft Office 365, Excel 2019, Excel 2016, and Excel 2013 for Windows and Mac.

Select a Range to Be Sorted in Excel

Before data can be sorted, Excel needs to know the exact range to sort. Excel can automatically include related data in a range so long as there are no blank rows or columns within the selected area. Blank rows and columns between areas of related data are okay. Excel then determines if the data area has field names and excludes those rows from the records to be sorted.

Allowing Excel to select the range to be sorted is fine for small amounts of data. However, for large areas of data, the easiest way to ensure that the correct range is selected is to highlight it before sorting.

If the same range is to be sorted repeatedly, the best approach is to give the range a name. If a name is defined for the range to be sorted, type the name in the Name Box, or select it from the associated drop-down list. This way, Excel automatically highlights the correct range of data in the worksheet.

Any sorting requires the use of sort order. When sorting by values, there are two possible sort orders: ascending and descending. However, when sorting by colors, no such order exists, so you must manually define the color sort order.

How to Sort by Cell Background Color in Excel

In the example below, the records of students age 20 and younger are highlighted in red. To sort the data by cell background color so that the red entries appear on top:

Highlight the range of cells to be sorted (cells A2 to D11 in the example).

Select the Sort on drop-down arrow and choose ​Cell Color.

Clear the My data has headers check box so that the first row doesn’t get cut off.

Select the Order drop-down arrow and choose Red.

When Excel finds different cell background colors in the selected data, it adds those colors to the Order drop-down list in the dialog box.

Choose On Top from the drop-down list next to the sort order box so that the red cells will be at the top of the list, then select OK.

The four records with red backgrounds are grouped together at the top of the data range.

When working with calculations, you can make negative numbers in Excel appear red by default to help those numbers stand out more.

How to Sort by Font Color in Excel

In the example below, the records of students enrolled in nursing programs appear in red, and those enrolled in science programs are blue. To sort the data by font color:

Highlight the range of cells to be sorted (cells A2 to D11 in the example).

Select the Sort on drop-down arrow and choose ​Font Color.

Clear the My data has headers check box so that the first row doesn’t get cut off.

Select the Order drop-down arrow, then choose Red.

When Excel finds different font colors in the selected data, it adds those colors to the Order drop-down list in the dialog box.

Choose On Top from the drop-down list next to the sort order box so that the red entries will be at the top of the list.

Select Add to add a second sort level.

Use the same settings as the first sort level, but this time select the Order drop-down arrow and choose Blue.

Select OK to sort the data and close the dialog box.

The two records with the red font color are grouped together at the top of the data range, followed by the two blue records.

How to Sort by Icon in Excel

Icon sets offer an alternative to regular conditional formatting options that focus on the font and cell formatting changes. The example below contains dates and temperatures that have been conditionally formatted with the stoplight icon set based on the daily maximum temperatures.

Follow these steps to sort the data so that records displaying the green icons are grouped first, followed by the yellow icons, and then the red icons:

Highlight the range of cells to be sorted (cells A2 to B31 in the example).

Select the Column drop-down arrow, then choose the column containing the conditional icons (Temperature in the example).

Due to the way conditional formatting with icons works, you can leave the My data has headers check box selected.

Select the Sort on drop-down arrow, then choose Conditional Formatting Icon.

Select the Order drop-down arrow, then choose Green.

Choose On Top from the drop-down list next to the sort order box so that the green icon entries will be at the top of the list.

Select Add to add a second sort level.

Use the same settings as the first sort level, but this time select the Order drop-down arrow and choose Yellow.

Select Add to add a third sort level, then use the same settings as the first two levels, but this time select the Order drop-down arrow and choose Red.

Select OK to sort the data and close the dialog box.

The records with the green icon are grouped together at the top of the data range, followed by the records with the yellow icon, and then those with a red icon.