Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. 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: Non-standard Sorting.

Non-standard Sorting

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated June 25, 2018)

It is not unusual in an office environment to work with Excel files created by other people. Some of these files can be pretty different than the files you might create. For instance, you might inherit a file in which the first column contains a person's first name on the first line, then their last name on the second line. (The user pressed Alt+Enter to separate the first name from the second name within the same cell.) What if you need to sort the rows in the worksheet based on the last name of the person?

Perhaps the best way to complete such a task is to insert a new column in the worksheet—column B. (This column could be hidden so it doesn't show up when normally working with the worksheet or when printing it out.) The following formula should then be placed in each cell of column B:

=RIGHT(A2,LEN(A2)-FIND(CHAR(10),A2))

Obviously the cell references will change when placed in column B. In this formula the FIND portion determines the position of the Alt+Enter character (the character code of this character is 10). The RIGHT function returns the characters in the cell starting at the character following the Alt+Enter character. This solution results in column B containing the information on the second line of the first column. You can then easily sort based on the information in column B.

There is one assumption made in this solution—that there are only two lines in each cell of column A. If there are more, or less, then the solution becomes more difficult. If that is the case, the best (and easiest) solution may be to reformat the worksheet so that the sort key is in a column all by itself. If that is not possible (for whatever reason), then the following user-defined VBA function can be used:

Function SecLine(x) As String
    Dim B1 As Integer
    Dim B2 As Integer
    
    B1 = InStr(x, Chr(10))
    B2 = InStr(B1 + 1, x, Chr(10))
    If (B1 + B2) > 0 Then
        If B2 > 0 Then
            SecLine = Mid(x, B1 + 1, B2 — B1 - 1)
        Else
            SecLine = Mid(x, B1 + 1)
        End If
    End If
End Function

To use this routine, simply include the following in the cells in column B:

=SecLine(A2)

Regardless of how many lines there are in cell A2 (in this instance), the function returns a string representing the value of the second line.

Note:

If you would like to know how to use the macros described on this page (or on any other page on the ExcelTips sites), I've prepared a special page that includes helpful information. Click here to open that special page in a new browser tab.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (11925) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Non-standard 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. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Organizing AutoText Entries

Want to get more organized with your AutoText entries? Here's how you can take advantage of the organizational features ...

Discover More

Losing All Formatting in a Document

Have you ever made a formatting change to a couple of characters or to a paragraph, only to see those changes affect text ...

Discover More

ExcelTips: Amazing Array Formulas

Array formulas allow you to accomplish amazing things with your data, including things you cannot do with regular ...

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)

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

Fixing Odd Sorting Behavior

When you sort data that contains both numbers and text, you may not get exactly the result that you expected. To know ...

Discover More

Sorting for a Walking Tour

Want to sort addresses by even and odd numbers? By using a formula and doing a little sorting, Excel can return the ...

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 4?

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)


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.