Sorting Lists

For best results, the list you sort should have column labels (headings at the top of each column, formatted differently from the list), and no blank rows or columns.  Sorting is typically performed down a column; however, you can sort horizontally across a row, if desired. For more important information on organizing your data, refer to the Data Lists article.

Simple Sort

To quickly sort based on contents in a single column:

  1. Click in a cells in the column that you wish to sort by.


  2. Display the Home ribbon then click on the Sort & Filter button (at the right). The following options appear:
  3. Choose the sort direction or click on Custom Sort to access the options described below.

Sorting by Values (Cell Contents)  

  1. Click a cell in the list you want to sort.

    If your data is entered as a proper data list, you do not need to select the cells first as Excel will select the entire data list.  If you have included blank lines and columns then you'll need to select the appropriate rows and columns before continuing.

  2. Display the Data Ribbon and click on the Sort button (within the Sort & Filter area of the ribbon). The following window is displayed:
  3. If your data has header rows at the top, choose My data has headers.


  4. In the Sort by field select the first column you want to sort by.


  5. In the Sort On field beside your Sort by field, leave as Values to sort by the contents of the cells. Refer to the headings below if you wish to sort by Cell Color, Font Color or Cell Icon.


  6. In the Order field, choose the order that you wish to sort by.
  7. If your column contains the names of months or days or is a custom list, choose Custom List to select the correct order.

  8. To add another sort level, click on the Add Level button then repeat steps 4 to 6 across the new row.


  9. Choose OK to perform the sort.

Sorting by Cell Color  

If you have formatted your data using a special cell color-code, you can sort the list by cell color as follows.

  1. Click a cell in the list you want to sort.

    If your data is entered as a proper data list, you do not need to select the cells first as Excel will select the entire data list.  If you have included blank lines and columns then you'll need to select the appropriate rows and columns before continuing.

  2. Display the Data Ribbon and click on the Sort button (within the Sort & Filter area of the ribbon). The following window is displayed:
  3. If your data has header rows at the top, choose My data has headers.


  4. In the Sort by field select the first column you want to sort by.


  5. In the Sort On field beside your Sort by field, choose Cell Color.


  6. In the Order field, choose the color that you wish to sort by.


  7. In the new field that appears beside the color field, choose On Top or On Bottom as the sort position.


  8. To add another sort level, click on the Add Level button or Copy Level button then repeat steps 4 to 7 across the new row.
  9. The following illustrates a sort by cell color. The result would be pink colored cells will appear first, green colored cells second, and peach colored cells last.

  10. Choose OK to perform the sort.

Sorting by Font Color  

If you have formatted your data using a special font color-code, you can sort the list by cell color as follows.

  1. Click a cell in the list you want to sort.

    If your data is entered as a proper data list, you do not need to select the cells first as Excel will select the entire data list.  If you have included blank lines and columns then you'll need to select the appropriate rows and columns before continuing.

  2. Display the Data Ribbon and click on the Sort button (within the Sort & Filter area of the ribbon). The following window is displayed:
  3. If your data has header rows at the top, choose My data has headers.


  4. In the Sort by field select the first column you want to sort by.


  5. In the Sort On field beside your Sort by field, choose Font Color.


  6. In the Order field, choose the color that you wish to sort by.


  7. In the new field that appears beside the color field, choose On Top or On Bottom as the sort position.


  8. To add another sort level, click on the Add Level button or Copy Level button then repeat steps 4 to 7 across the new row.
  9. The following illustrates a sort by font color. The result would be blue colored cells will appear first, red colored cells second, and any other colored cells last.

  10. Choose OK to perform the sort.

Additional References