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: Sorting Letters and Numbers.

Sorting Letters and Numbers

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated June 21, 2023)
This tip applies to Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Microsoft 365


3

Let's say that you have a worksheet in which a particular column, for instance column C, 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 (this formula assumes the data you are sorting begins in cell C1):

=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, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Microsoft 365. 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 nine minus 3?

2019-06-16 09:58:58

Harold Druss

How about a simple macro? No padding.
Data in Col A, Col B no data
=========================================
Sub SortWithFirstLetter()
LastRow = Cells(Rows.Count, "A").End(xlUp).Row
FirstLetter = Left(Cells(1, 1), 1)
For i = 1 To LastRow
Cells(i, 2) = Mid(Cells(i, 1), 2)
Next
Range("B1:B" & LastRow).Sort Key1:=Range("B1"), Order1:=xlAscending, Header:=xlNo
For i = 1 To LastRow
Cells(i, 1) = FirstLetter & Cells(i, 2)
Next
Columns("B:B").Select
Selection.ClearContents
End Sub


2019-06-16 08:33:56

Stephen Argent

Hi Allen,
There's another way around that particular problem:
Format the cells using the number format "F"0
That way you can enter the the numbers as numbers and the formatting will add the letter "F" in front, but Excel will still recognise them as numbers.

Best,
Stephen


2019-06-15 13:25:44

Willy Vanhaelen

This is a shorter formula:

=LEFT(C1,1)&RIGHT(1000+MID(C1,2,3),3)


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