How to Sort in Excel: A Simple Guide to Organizing Data

By rleist@hubspot.com (Rachel Leist)

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When it comes to Excel, here’s a good rule to live by: If you find yourself doing something manually, there’s probably an easier way.

Whether you’re trying to remove duplicates, do simple calculations, or sort your data, you can almost always find a workaround that’ll help you get it done with just a click (or two) of a button.

But if you’re not a power user, it’s easy to overlook these shortcuts. And before you know it, something as simple as organizing a list of names in alphabetical order can suck up a ton of your time.

Luckily, there is a workaround for that. In fact, there are a few different ways to use Excel’s sorting feature that you may not know about. Let’s check them out below, starting with the basics.

How to Sort in Excel

  1. Highlight the rows and/or columns you want sorted.
  2. Navigate to “Data” along the top and select “Sort.”
  3. If sorting by column, select the column you want to order your sheet by.
  4. If sorting by row, click “Options” and select “Sort left to right.”
  5. Choose what you’d like sorted.
  6. Choose how you’d like to order your sheet.
  7. Click “OK.”

For this first set of instructions, we’ll be using Microsoft Excel 2017 for Mac. But don’t worry — while the location of certain buttons might be different, the icons and selections you have to make are the same across most earlier versions of Excel.

1. Highlight the rows and/or columns you want sorted.

To sort a range of cells in Excel, first click and drag your cursor across your spreadsheet to highlight all of the cells you want to sort — even those rows and columns whose values you’re not actually sorting by.

For example, if you want to sort column A, but there’s data associated with column A in columns B and C, it’s important to highlight all three columns to ensure the values in Columns B and C move along with the cells you’re sorting in Column A.

In the screenshot below, we’re going to sort this sheet by the last name of Harry Potter characters. But the first name and house of each person needs to go with each last name that gets sorted, or each column will become mismatched when we finish sorting.

2. Navigate to ‘Data’ along the top and select ‘Sort.’

Once all the data you want to sort is highlighted, select the “Data” tab along the top navigation bar (you can see this button on the top-right of the screenshot in the first step, above). This tab will expand a new set of options beneath it, where you can select the “Sort” button. The icon has an “A-Z” graphic on it, as you can see below, but you’ll be able to sort in more ways than just alphabetically.

<img src="https://blog.hubspot.com/hs-fs/hubfs/sort-icon-excel.png?t=1533855841550&width=478&name=sort-icon-excel.png" alt="Data tab in Excel, with …read more

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