Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. 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 an Entire List.
by Allen Wyatt
(last updated February 8, 2021)
Excel allows you to sort list data both quickly and easily. You can sort your data by row using the contents of any column you want. In database terminology, this column (or field) is called the sort key. In Excel it is referred to as the "Sort By" column.
To sort an entire list quickly, start by selecting a cell within the column you want used as the Sort By column. Then, click on the Sort Ascending tool or Sort Descending tool, depending on what you want to do. (These tools are in the Sort & Filter group on the Data tab of the ribbon.) For instance, if you want to sort an inventory list by its Quantity field, all you need to do is select a cell in the Quantity column, and then click on Sort Ascending.
There are a few "gotchas" to be aware of. If your data contains any blank columns or rows, then that can affect what rows or columns Excel actually sorts. You should also know that if your worksheet contains hidden rows, they are not affected when you sort by rows. If you have hidden columns, they are not affected when you sort by columns. After the sort, they will remain in the same position as before the sort.
ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (7222) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Sorting an Entire List.
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