Sorting by the Last Digits in Variable Length Data

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated June 20, 2015)

3

Howard has a list of numbers, sometimes 6 digits, sometimes 8 digits, but the length is irrelevant as he needs to sort by the last 2 digits and then by the previous 2 digits. He tried right/middle/left types of formulas, but with having varying numbers of digits he could not make it work.

Before discussing approaches, it is important to make a few explicit assumptions about Howard's data. In this tip I'll assume that the data is in column A and that it consists of at least 4 digits. (Howard mentions lengths of 6 and 8 digits, so this shouldn't be a false assumption.) It is also assumed that the only thing in column A is values made up of digits—it doesn't contain other characters that you want ignored in your sorting.

If you wanted to use two helper columns to extract the sorting digits, then you could use the following in column B:

=RIGHT(A1,2)

The formula grabs the two right-most digits from whatever is in column A. The following could then be placed into column C:

=MID(A1, LEN(A1)-3,2)

This formula looks at the length of whatever is in A1 and uses that value as a parameter for the MID function to extract the two digits that precede the final two digits in the value.

It is important to realize that these formulas return text values, regardless of whether the values in column A are numeric or text. This is handy when either of the extracted values begin with 0; it means that instead of "5" being returned you'll see "05" or "00" instead of "0". If you want to make sure that numeric values are returned, then you'll need to wrap each formula in the VALUE function:

=VALUE(RIGHT(A1,2))
=VALUE(MID(A1, LEN(A1)-3,2))

With your "key values" in columns B and C you could then perform your sort based on those values. You could also, if desired, use only a single helper column with either of these formulas in column B:

=RIGHT(A1,2)&MID(A1, LEN(A1)-3,2)
=RIGHT(A1,2)&LEFT(RIGHT(A1,4),2)

Again, these return text strings (which are just fine for sorting), but you could convert them to numeric values by wrapping them in the VALUE function:

=VALUE(RIGHT(A1,2)&MID(A1, LEN(A1)-3,2))
=VALUE(RIGHT(A1,2)&LEFT(RIGHT(A1,4),2))

Regardless of whether you work with extracted text or a numeric value in column B, you can now sort based on the column contents.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (10905) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, and 2013.

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

Importing a Subset of Records

If you only want to import a portion of whatever records are in a text file, Excel provides a number of ways you can ...

Discover More

Determining If a Number is Odd or Even

If you need to know whether a particular value is odd or even, you can use this simple formula. Designed to be used in a ...

Discover More

Calculating Future Workdays

Need to calculate the date that is a certain number of workdays in the future? You can do so using a couple of different ...

Discover More

Solve Real Business Problems Master business modeling and analysis techniques with Excel and transform data into bottom-line results. This hands-on, scenario-focused guide shows you how to use the latest Excel tools to integrate data from multiple tables. Check out Microsoft Excel 2013 Data Analysis and Business Modeling today!

More ExcelTips (ribbon)

Sorting while Ignoring Leading Characters

Want to ignore some characters at the beginning of each cell when sorting? The easiest way is to simply create other ...

Discover More

Sorting Dates and Times

One of the strong features of Excel is its ability to sort information in a worksheet. When it doesn't sort information ...

Discover More

Incomplete and Corrupt Sorting

Using the sorting tools, on the toolbar, may result in some unwanted results, such as jumbled data. If this happens to ...

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 five more than 8?

2015-06-22 10:14:23

Ed Phillips

If there is the chance that the data might have less than four digits, you could simply use the "TEXT" function to convert them.

In the examples, simply replace each occurrence of "A1" with the following: TEXT(A1,"0000")
(Formula shown on a separate line to avoid confusion, since it involves the use of double quotes)
This formula will add leading zeros to any value under a thousand.

Important note: this formula will also round any data that is not a whole number. It is possible that the values being imported are displayed as whole numbers when they are not. This may be why Howard had his original problem. A value may be imported as 123456.8 but appear on the spreadsheet as 123457 The "LEFT" function would be evaluate the imported value, rather than the apparent one. so "LEFT(cell,2)" would return ".8" when "57" was expected.


2015-06-21 11:53:00

Bijan

Hi
It was nice and I learned new ability or better I say I learn new techniques of excel
Thanks


2015-06-20 05:30:22

Mudassar Aftab

Hi,

Can you help me with this?

I need to lock a particular cell or range with a password after a particular date has passed. e.g I am collecting Sales Reports from a number of people and who sometimes change their sales in previous dates to reconcile their floor stock. Can there be something to stop them from editing sales data in previous dates.

Regards


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.