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How to sort data in Excel

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One of the first features that many users begin using is the ability to sort data in Excel. Being able to automatically have your data displayed in a specific order, whether that be number, alphabetical or date order, is a huge time saver. Excel allows you to sort by one column at a time or multiples.

The Sorting buttons can be found in a wide variety of locations within Excel. Which one you use really depends on your personal preference.

  • Home tab – access the Sorting options through the Sort & Filter drop-down menu to the right hand side of the Ribbon.
  • Data tab – The Sort and Filter functions have their own dedicated group on the Ribbon for direct access.
  • Right Mouse Click – The right-mouse click gives you many shortcut options including the Sort menu
  • Quick Access Toolbar – I always have the sort A-Z and sort Z-A buttons up on my Quick Access toolbar. Find out how to add them to yours here.

Let’s have a look at how we can sort data in Excel.

Sort data alphabetically in Excel

  1. Open Microsoft Excel
  2. Open a workbook which contains data you wish to sort
  3. In this first example, I want to sort a list of names into alphabetical order from A to Z
Open up an Excel file containing data you wish to sort.
  1. Place your cursor in ANY cell within the column you wish to sort, bearing in mind it needs to be placed BELOW the heading as shown in my example:

TIP: You do not need to highlight the area first.

Click any cell within the column you wish to sort.
  1. Select the Data tab and choose if you wish to sort A to Z or Z to A or locate the sort buttons in your preferred location which is outlined at the top of this article.
Now click the A to Z or Z to A button to sort the column in Excel.
  1. The data will now be sorted into alphabetical order
The data is now in alphabetical order.
  1. Click into a different column, in my example I’ll now click into the First Name column
  2. Repeat the process to change the sort order of your data

Sort by two columns – Custom Sort

Now that you’ve seen how to sort by one column at a time, let’s look at how you can sort by multiple columns. Let’s use my data as an example. I want to have all my staff listed in alphabetical order by their Office location. I have 18 staff members within each Office location. I’d also like to have everyone within each OFFICE to be displayed in alphabetical order by their Last Name. How can I tell Excel that I want it to sort by BOTH of these columns?

  1. Place your cursor in ANY cell within the data area
  2. Select the Data tab and click the Sort button
  3. The Sort window will appear:
  1. You will already see the previous sort you performed listed, we want to add a second sorting option so that once Excel had sorted the first set of data, it will then go ahead and sort based on the second criteria
  2. I need to change my sort order so that the first sort performed is the Office column
  3. From the options click the Add Level button
  4. The second sorting level will be displayed
  1. From the second level choose the next column you wish to sort. E.g. for mine I am going to choose Last Name
  2. Now click OK
  3. The data will now be sorted by the first column you chose, e.g. Office and then for duplicate records within that data set you will then have all staff listed in order by Last Name.

The process is the same regardless of whether you want to sort text, numbers, currency or dates.

I hope this helps you with learning how to sort data using Microsoft Excel. Comment below if you have any questions.


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