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How to Sort Values in Excel

posted on Dec 6, 2017
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Excel is an excellent program for organizing data of pretty much any kind, like dates, prices, names, and any other information. In order to take full advantage of this functionality, I recommend that you think of setting up your tables a bit differently than you might if you were creating tables for a report.

How to organize your data

Let’s say you are tracking a series of fundraising events your organization holds. If you were creating a report in MS Word on the particular events, an information table might be organized like this:

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In order to maximize what Excel can do for you, I recommend you organize the data in such a way that every row represents a unique value (in this case, a person who attended an event), and use different columns for all the information. You will end up repeating information, but that is fine. Here is what the same data might look like in Excel, including another event:

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The reason this matters is that now you can sort your data by whatever you want. For example, you could find your top donors by sorting the whole data table by the donation amount.

How to sort, Method 1: Quick & Dirty

Select your header row by clicking on the number. Then, click Filter under the Data tab.

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Excel will create a drop-down arrow for every heading in your table. Click the arrow for the column you want to sort, and select if you want to sort from A→Z or from Z→A ( with numbers this translates as a choice between smallest to largest, or largest to smallest). If you want to find your top donors, you’ll do best to sort from largest to smallest, so that the biggest donations are at the top of your table.

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After you click Sort, you know immediately who gave the largest donation.

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How to Sort, Method 2: More Control

First, select the whole data table you want to sort. Then click the Sort Button in the Data Tab.

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Sort by

This is the column you want to sort by. If your data has headers, then make sure My data has headers is selected in the top right. Otherwise, make sure it is unchecked.

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Sort On

You will probably always want to sort by values, that is, the contents of the cell. However, you can also sort by cell colour, font colour, or particular icons.

Sort By

You can choose

  • Smallest to largest
  • Largest to smallest
  • A custom list that you enter

Add level

This allows you to sort by multiple categories. For example, if you wanted to find out who donated the most at each event, you could sort by date, then add a level to sort by donation amount. (though actually, the best way to answer that question would be to use a pivot table, which is covered in Excel 201)

Sort Options

You can choose to sort columns of data (up to down) or rows (left to right)

To learn more about how to make the most of Excel, come to an upcoming workshop. Bring your laptop to these interactive sessions.

To bone up on basics like sorting data, come to Excel 101.

Click here to register Wednesday, January 24, 2018. 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

To delve into pivot tables and charts, come to Excel 201. You have the option to bring your own data to this session.

Click here to register Wednesday, February 28, 2018. 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

Filed under: Operations
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