Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Microsoft 365. 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: Performing Complex Sorts.

Performing Complex Sorts

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated February 27, 2021)
This tip applies to Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Microsoft 365


By using the sorting capabilities of Excel, you can perform complex sorting of either an entire list or any portion of a list. If you want to sort an entire list, you only need to select a single cell within the list. If you want to sort a portion of a list, you need to select those rows (they must be contiguous) that you want sorted.

  1. Display the Data tab of the ribbon.
  2. Click the Sort tool. Excel displays the Sort dialog box. Using this dialog box, sorting is performed according to criteria you set. (See Figure 1.)
  3. Figure 1. The Sort dialog box.

  4. Use the Sort By drop-down to select the field (or column) by which you want to sort.
  5. Click Add Level each time you want to specify a secondary sorting key.
  6. Specify for each sorting key whether you want that field to be sorted in ascending or descending order.
  7. Click the Options button to display the Sort Options dialog box where you can specify whether you want capitalization to matter and whether you want to sort rows or columns. (See Figure 2.)
  8. Figure 2. The Sort Options dialog box.

  9. Click on OK to close the Sort Options dialog box.
  10. Click on OK to complete your sort.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (7216) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Microsoft 365. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Performing Complex Sorts.

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. ...

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