Can't Sort Imported Data

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated November 7, 2020)
This tip applies to Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Microsoft 365


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 (or Table 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 you cannot see a Design or Table Design tab in step 2 (and you selected a cell in the data table), then your data is not a defined table and these steps won't work. If the problem persists, 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 your situation.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (9044) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Microsoft 365.

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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