Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021. 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: Use Filenames That Sort Properly.

Use Filenames that Sort Properly

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated February 17, 2024)
This tip applies to Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021


It is not uncommon to work on projects that require several workbooks. When you are naming files for your project, you should use names which will later sort properly when you use various functions of Excel. For instance, the Open dialog box shows the files in the current directory. If your files are named properly, they will always appear in order on the list.

I ensure this by starting all files related to a project with a number of digits that represent the order in which the workbook appears in the project. For instance, if the project entails workbooks from the last quarter of 2023 and the first quarter of 2024, then the files may be named as follows:

202310 Actual Figures.xlsx
202311 Actual Figures.xlsx
202312 Actual Figures.xlsx
202401 Actual Figures.xlsx
202402 Actual Figures.xlsx
202403 Actual Figures.xlsx

The files sort properly because they begin with the year. If they began with the month, then the first quarter of 2024 would sort before the last quarter of 2023, which is not nearly as helpful an order.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (12553) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Use Filenames That Sort Properly.

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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