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 Letters and Numbers.

Sorting Letters and Numbers

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated June 14, 2014)

4

Let's say that you have a worksheet in which a particular column contains entries such as F1, F2, F3, etc., all the way up to F149. If you need to sort the data in the worksheet based on the contents of this column, the results may disappoint you. Because the first character in each cell is a letter, Excel sorts the column as text.

The upshot is that the cells are sorted in the order F1, F10, F100, F101, F102, etc. In this arrangement, F2 doesn't show up until the sixty-second entry in the sorted list. The reason this happens is because the cells are treated as text. As text, all the cells starting with F1 (there are 61 of them) come before the cells starting with F2.

The only way around this situation is to make sure that the numbers in the cells are front-padded with zeros. In other words, you shouldn't use F1, but F001. You can use the following formula to convert the old format numbers to the new format:

=LEFT(C1,1) & RIGHT("000" & RIGHT(C1,LEN(C1)-1),3)

Now, when you sort by the newly formatted entries, you get the desired results: F001, F002, F003, etc.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (9600) 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 Letters and Numbers.

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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What is eight more than 2?

2015-07-14 16:39:59

Louis

Dear Michael & Ramon, many thanks for your assistance. Much appreciated.


2015-07-13 10:34:11

Ramon

Hi Louis. I got it to work out - altho' I'm trying to figure out the workings/construction of the formula. In the given formula, the "C1" is where the example commences i.e. the first F1 in the column. Also, dont allow any " " (spaces) in the formula.


2015-07-13 09:32:32

Michael Armstrong

C1 is the first cell containing an old-format number. Copying the formula column-wise will convert column C's cells to the sortable format.


2015-07-12 10:30:38

Louis

Dear Allen,
Thanks for providing this tip. Regrettably I cannot implement it. Can you please advise why you are using "C1" in the formula? Please advise how to use the cell address containing the record that must be sorted? Can you perhaps elaborate on the logic of the formula?
Thank you. Louis


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