Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Office 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 Decimal Values.

Sorting Decimal Values

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated August 15, 2020)

1

Bob often needs to construct tables that are keyed to titles in government regulations. The numbering of the regulations is in decimal form and this creates problems when he tries to sort them in order. Examples are 820.20, 820.25, 820.200, 820.250. Bob enters these as text, but they still come out sorted in a manner that he does not want. In all cases, Excel drops off the trailing zeros and sees "820.20" and "820.200" as the same thing; Bob is wondering what he can do.

First of all, it should be pointed out that if Excel is dropping the trailing zeroes, then the cells are not formatted as text. You'll need to format the cells as text before you put anything in them, or else you'll need to precede the entry with an apostrophe. In either case, the trailing zeroes should remain in place.

Another way to force the entries to text is to modify them in some way. For instance, you could enter "Reg 820.200" instead of "820.200." Or you could replace the period after the 820 with a space or a dash. Any of these methods, and many more, would force the entry to be treated as text.

Even if you force the entry of information to text, that still won't solve the sorting problem, however. Sort a bunch of these cells, and they will still come out in an order you don't want:

820.190
820.2
820.20
820.200
820.201
820.25
820.27

The reason is because the sorting is done from left to right, and in this scheme ".20" will always come before ".200" which always comes before ".25." The only way around this is to modify the structure of the numbers so that (in this case) there are always three digits after the decimal point:

820.002
820.020
820.025
820.027
820.190
820.200
820.201

While this gives the proper sorting order, it does havoc to the original intent: to match the numbering used in the governmental numbering system. If you want to be true to that numbering scheme, the only solution is to use three columns for your numbering. The first column would be the government numbers, entered as text. The second column would be the part of those numbers to the left of the decimal point, derived with a formula:

=LEFT(A1,FIND(".",A1)-1)

The third column would be the portion to the right of the decimal point, derived with this formula:

=RIGHT(A1,LEN(A1)-FIND(".",A1))

With the three columns in place, you can then do your sorting based on the contents of the second and third columns. After the numbers are sorted, you can hide the second and third columns, as desired.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (11336) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Office 365. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Sorting Decimal Values.

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

Deleting a Footer

Excel allows you to add footers to the worksheets you create. If you decide you don't need a footer any more, here's how ...

Discover More

Saving Grammar Preferences with a Document

The grammar checking tool in Word can be helpful in developing a finished, polished document. You may want to share your ...

Discover More

Removing Specific Fields

Word allows you to place all sorts of fields in your documents. If you want to search for only specific types of fields, ...

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)

Importing Custom Lists

Custom lists are handy ways to enter recurring data in a worksheet. Here's how you can import your own custom lists from ...

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

Storing Sorting Criteria

Need to do the same sorting operation over and over again? Excel doesn't provide a way to save your sorting criteria, but ...

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}] (all 7 characters, in the sequence shown) 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 9 + 5?

2020-08-15 15:34:04

Chris Lefsrud

Presuming I understand the issue correctly, how about adding only one new column which contains the following formula, referring to an entered value in the cell immediately to its left (col A)...
=IF(ISBLANK(A2),"",TEXT(LEFT(A2,FIND(".",A2,1)-1),"000")&"."&TEXT(RIGHT(A2,LEN(A2)-FIND(".",A2,1)),"000"))

A formula approach does not care if the values in the source column are text or numeric. This example pads out each of the two segments (before and after the decimal) to a minimum of 3 digits.

Then just protect this column to prevent overwriting the formula, and use it for the sort operation.


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.