Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, and 2013. If you are using an earlier version (Excel 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Excel, click here: Sorting Data Containing Merged Cells.

Sorting Data Containing Merged Cells

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated June 8, 2015)

1

Excel has long included the ability to merge adjacent cells into a larger, single cell. This ability has been used by many worksheet designers to give their worksheets a polished, professional look.

There is a huge drawback to using merged cells, however: You can't sort tables that include them. If you try, you'll get a message that says "The operation requires the merged cells to be identically sized."

The most obvious solution to the problem is to not use merged cells. Let's say, for instance, that you have a worksheet in which each "record" actually consists of two rows, and that the first column of the worksheet contains merged cells. (Each two-row record starts with two merged cells spanning the two rows. This merged cell contains a project name.)

It is better to unmerge the cells in the first column, but then you may wonder how to make the records sort properly in the worksheet; how to keep the row pairs together during a sort. You can do this by putting your project name in the first row and the project name appended with "zz" in the second row. For instance, if the first row contains "Wilburn Chemical" (the project name), then the second row could contain "Wilburn Chemicalzz". Format the second row's cell so the name doesn't show up (such as white text on a white background), and you can then successfully sort as you want to.

Another solution is to use a macro to juggle your worksheet and get the sorting done. Assuming that the merged cells are in column A (as previously described), you can use the following macro to sort the data by the contents of column A:

Sub SortList()
    Dim sAddStart As String
    Dim rng As Range
    Dim rng2 As Range
    Dim lRows As Long

    Application.ScreenUpdating = False
    sAddStart = Selection.Address
    Set rng = Range("A1").CurrentRegion

    With rng
        lRows = .Rows.Count - 1
        .Cells(1).EntireColumn.Insert
        .Cells(1).Offset(0, -1) = "Temp"
        .Cells(1).Offset(1, -1).FormulaR1C1 = _
          "=+RC[1]&"" ""&ROW()"
        .Cells(1).Offset(2, -1).FormulaR1C1 = _
          "=+R[-1]C[1]&"" ""&ROW()"
        Set rng2 = .Cells(1).Offset(1, -1).Resize(lRows, 1)
        Range(.Cells(2, 0), .Cells(3, 0)).AutoFill _
            Destination:=rng2
        rng2.Copy
        rng2.PasteSpecial Paste:=xlValues

        .Columns(1).MergeCells = False

    .CurrentRegion.Sort _
        Key1:=Range("A2"), Order1:=xlAscending, _
        Header:=xlYes, OrderCustom:=1, _
        MatchCase:=False, Orientation:=xlTopToBottom

        rng2.EntireColumn.Delete

        With Range(.Cells(2, 1), .Cells(3, 1))
            .Merge
            .Copy
            .Cells(3, 1).Resize(lRows - 2, 1). _
                PasteSpecial Paste:=xlFormats
        End With
    End With
    Application.CutCopyMode = False
    Range(sAddStart).Select
    Application.ScreenUpdating = True
End Sub

The macro inserts a temporary column, reads the items from the first column of the list, appends the row number, copies it down the temporary column, unmerges the cells, sorts the list, deletes the temporary column, and re-merges column A. (That's a lot of work just to sort a table with merged cells!)

This macro is very specific to a particular layout of your data, and therefore would need to be tested and probably modified to make sure it would work with data formatted in any other way.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (761) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, and 2013. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Sorting Data Containing Merged Cells.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Editing a Toolbar Button Image

Don't like the toolbar button images in your version of Excel? Don't fret; you can pull up the button editor and make changes ...

Discover More

Following a Number with Different Characters

When creating numbered lists, the normal characters that follow the number are a period and a tab. Here's how to force Word ...

Discover More

Making Sure Word Doesn't Capitalize Anything Automatically

Word, in an effort to be helpful, will often change the capitalization of the words you type. If you tire of Word's ...

Discover More

Create Custom Apps with VBA! Discover how to extend the capabilities of Office 2013 (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Access) with VBA programming, using it for writing macros, automating Office applications, and creating custom applications. Check out Mastering VBA for Office 2013 today!

More ExcelTips (ribbon)

Sorting Data on Protected Worksheets

Protect a worksheet and you limit exactly what can be done with the data in the worksheet. One of the things that could be ...

Discover More

Sorting Letters and Numbers

Sorting information in a worksheet can be confusing when Excel applies sorting rules of which you are unaware. This is ...

Discover More

Fixing Odd Sorting Behavior

When you sort data that contains both numbers and text, you may not get exactly the result that you expected. To know what is ...

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.

Comments

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is two more than 4?

2017-01-18 03:17:20

Eddie van Leeuwen

Got same error about merged cells but there seem to be none ?? Actually not any in the spreadsheet at all ...
Copied whole spreadsheet to new Excel document did not solve problem neither...
Filtering works fine but sorting does not ??


This Site

Got a version of Excel that uses the ribbon interface (Excel 2007 or later)? This site is for you! If you use an earlier version of Excel, visit our ExcelTips site focusing on the menu interface.

Newest Tips
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.