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 while Ignoring Leading Characters.

Sorting while Ignoring Leading Characters

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated November 12, 2018)

2

Ritesh has a huge amount of data that he needs to process in Excel. Each line in a worksheet includes a part number, in column A, by which he needs to sort the records. The problem is that Ritesh cannot do a straight sort; the first four characters of the part numbers need to be ignored. Thus, the sorting actually needs to start with the fifth character of the part number.

The easiest way to handle this situation is to create a new column in Excel that consists entirely of the information you want to use in the sort. In this case, you could add a new, blank column to the right of column A, and then enter this formula in the first cell of the column (assumed to be cell B2):

=RIGHT(A2,LEN(A2)-4)

You'll notice that cell B2 now contains the part number, beginning with the fifth character. Copy this formula down as many cells as necessary, and then perform a standard sort based on the contents of column B. You end up with the records in the desired order. You can then either delete column B, or you can hide it if you may need it later but don't want it to show up.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (9870) 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 while Ignoring Leading Characters.

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. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Adding Automatic Lines

Want an easy way to add lines in your document? You can do it by making sure Word is using one of its AutoFormat features.

Discover More

Editing PivotTables without Underlying Data

If you ever try to edit a PivotTable and get an error that tells you that the "underlying data was not included," it can ...

Discover More

Creating an AutoText List

The AUTOTEXTLIST field is one of those esoteric fields that you may know nothing about. The cool thing it does is it ...

Discover More

Excel Smarts for Beginners! Featuring the friendly and trusted For Dummies style, this popular guide shows beginners how to get up and running with Excel while also helping more experienced users get comfortable with the newest features. Check out Excel 2013 For Dummies today!

More ExcelTips (ribbon)

Sorting ZIP Codes

Sorting ZIP Codes can be painless, provided all the codes are formatted the same. Here's how to do the sorting if you ...

Discover More

Can't Sort Imported Data

Import information from an external database, and you'll no doubt want to use Excel's simple tools to manipulate that ...

Discover More

Preventing Jumbled Sorts

Click the Sort tool in Excel, and you may be surprised that the data in your worksheet is jumbled. In order to sort ...

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.

Comments

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is four more than 3?

2014-12-13 10:08:07

Jason Swartzlander

If using Excel 2013 you can also use the "Flash Fill" feature. In this example, you would simply type the text as you want it (without the first four characters) and the copy using the fill handle (lower right corner of B2). You then select Flash Fill from the Auto Fill Options box that pops up. You can also use the Flash Fill option from the Fill feature in the Editing box of the Home tab. Hard to explain, easy to use!


2014-12-13 08:30:02

Wim deGroot

Why not use
=MID(A2, 5, 100)
assuming the cells have max 100 characters?
Meaning: begin with the 5th character and give the rest of the string.


This Site

Got a version of Excel that uses the ribbon interface (Excel 2007 or later)? This site is for you! If you use an earlier version of Excel, visit our ExcelTips site focusing on the menu interface.

Newest Tips
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.