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Can't Sort Imported Data

Martin is importing data into a worksheet from an SQL view; it comes in perfectly. Excel automatically creates a defined table using the imported data. Martin then inserts new columns in the middle of the table so he can start to work with the data, but once these new columns are inserted he cannot sort the worksheet—the option is grayed out. Martin is wondering why this is happening and how to fix it.

The problem is probably due to the fact that the data is being imported as a defined table. Defined tables can have some "peculiarities" (shall we say) that affect what you can and cannot do with them. You can figure out if this is what is causing the problem by following these steps:

  1. Make sure you select a cell within the data table.
  2. Select the Design tab of the ribbon. (This tab is available only if you select a cell in your data table, as noted in step 1.)
  3. Click the Convert to Range tool in the Tools group. Excel asks you if you want to convert the table to a normal range.
  4. Click Yes.

That's it; if you can now add information and sort your data, then the problem is solved. If not, then it could be because the SQL connection between the data source and Excel is somehow limiting what you can and cannot do with the data. You may need to poke around in the Trust Center settings for external content in order to figure out what will work with you situation.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (9044) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, and 2013.

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Comments for this tip:

Kristen Clarke    22 May 2016, 15:47
Excellent tip. I thought I would have to export the data and start again.
No other help came near this simple tip.
Carolyn Marshall    18 Apr 2016, 16:53
I don't have a Design tab. I'm Excel 2010.

I have a title Row and Print Area.

Clicked in the print area. That should be the data table.

Make a new document, type in junk and it does work.

Copy my table and edit/values and then it doesn't work.

Please help!
KannyKen    06 Apr 2016, 09:29
Excellent tip. Sorted my problem in minutes! (Not sure I understood what I was doing but your instructions were clear!)

I had imported a simple document from LibreOffice spread sheet and could not sort the data. I had worried that in paying real money for real software after years of using freebies I had createsd a real problem. Seems like poetic justice that your free advice fixed it.
Dave B.    08 Oct 2015, 15:09
Timesaver! Thanks!
Kurt Finnegan    04 Sep 2015, 14:49
For me, the solution was to highlight everything and to Page Layout (At the top bar) and BREAKs, then remove Page Breaks.
Another Rookie    31 May 2015, 01:26
Thanks so much! I must have a different version, but your advice was enough for me to figure it out. And yes, I was crying, it's late and it's past my bedtime.
Rescued    05 Mar 2015, 22:57
In seconds, I solved a problem I had been tussling with for HOURS! No other information searches were successful. Then I found this. If there had been anyone else left at work, they'd have had me hauled away. I was cursing a blue streak.

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! So easy when you know how!
Dave    24 Feb 2015, 18:08
Step 2 above "Select the Design tab of the ribbon." Design tab doesn't show up and yes I clicked into the data area. A picture would help.

Meredith Roberts    24 Feb 2015, 11:16
Thank you for keeping me from crying at work.
ExcelRookie    12 Feb 2015, 10:44
Thanks. Solved my problem in less than a minute!!
Zoltan Gabanyi    19 Nov 2014, 11:53
I have a problem with sorting in Excel 10. I mada a small table (3 rows by 3 columns), and I filled it in with numbers. Then I made another column by summing up data in the first three columns. Then I tried to sort data using the calculated fourth column. Unfortunately, sorting is not done properly, numbers are not in descending order. What shall I do?

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