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: Incomplete and Corrupt Sorting.

Incomplete and Corrupt Sorting

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated December 18, 2021)
This tip applies to Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Microsoft 365


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The sorting capabilities of Excel are quite handy and quite powerful. The different ways you sort information has been covered in quite a few different issues of ExcelTips. What happens, however, if you try to sort something and Excel omits some columns from the sort and otherwise scrambles your data?

The most common cause for this problem is that Excel isn't recognizing all your data. If you select a single cell in the data table, and then click on either the Sort Ascending or Sort Descending tool, Excel makes its best guess as to what data you want sorted. It may not always make a perfect guess, particularly if there are blank columns, blank rows, or large empty ranges in the data.

One way to see if this is the real problem is to press Ctrl+Shift+* (that's an asterisk). This shortcut selects the "region" around the current cell. Essentially, when you start a sort from a single cell, Excel initiates this command before doing the actual sort. If you press Ctrl+Shift+* first, you can get an idea of exactly which columns and rows Excel will sort.

To make sure there is no confusion in what Excel actually sorts, all you need to do is select the range of columns and rows that you want sorted, and then do the sort.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (10320) 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: Incomplete and Corrupt Sorting.

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 3 + 7?

2022-10-09 20:34:28

Kirt

Appreciate the article, but I've tried clicking on the header of the column I was to sort by, dragging until all the cells in the columns that are adjacent are in the selection box. Then sort by the header (yes, I mark my data has headers), and Excel invariably sorts that column correctly, but moves data cells in adjacent columns in a haphazard way. The method seems to work ok on text; but the column I'm sorting on has Dollar values. The other columns have simple numbers in one, and text fields in the other. While the column I'm sorting on gets sorted right, the others change the corresponding row cells, which screws up the Dollar values that are being calculated mathematically by multiplying the source columns.
I've tried selecting the cell, then accepting the expansion option, selecting the entire spreadsheet by clicking on the upper left "arrow", selecting all of the columns at the "letter" level. All produce the same break in data correlation.

Fortunately, I'm a Mac user and have a free spreadsheet "Numbers" that sort fine when I cut and pasted the data cells into it from excel. This needs to be fixed.


2021-12-20 04:08:16

Super_James

Good tip, as always.
I would add that the first step is to hit the back arrow to undo the incorrect sort.


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