Excel Sorting features

Excel 2003 has a built-in feature that enables data in a worksheet to be sorted. Sorting data in Excel 2003 can bring important data together, organise its appearance within the document, and allow the user to spot data that are incorrectly formatted or incomplete.

Excel 2003 has a built-in feature that enables data in a worksheet to be sorted. Sorting data in Excel 2003 can bring important data together, organise its appearance within the document, and allow the user to spot data that are incorrectly formatted or incomplete.

In most cases, sorting is done for the convenience of the user, but in a few cases, it is a necessary precursor for certain functions, like subtotaling a table. Although sorting data in Excel 2003 involves multiple columns of data, Excel 2003 can sort a single data column. This is helpful when alphabetising a list, or organising a column of numbers.

Excel’s basic sorting function enables you to specify the sort order for data in columns. For example, if you have a number of addresses, you can sort by the last name of the recipient. If each recipient has a unique last name, this works. If some recipients have the same last name, you may want to configure the sort to use the last name as the primary sorting criterion, followed by the first name of the recipient as a second sorting criterion. Using multiple sorting criteria will enable you to control the sort order more precisely.

Excel 2003 looks for inconsistencies between the first item in a column and the rest of the data in the column. If it finds inconsistency in form, Excel 2003 recognises that the first item in a column is likely to be a header value or column label. These labels are typically ignored, and do not become part of the data being sorted. If the data in each column are consistent, Excel assumes that the first item in the column is data and will sort it along with the other data in the column.

To sort a single column of values in Excel 2003, select the column to be sorted and press the Sort Ascending or Sort Descending button, both of which appear on the Standard toolbar. The Sort Ascending button will order information in the least to greatest order (or alphabetic order, if it is a column of text). The Sort Descending button will sort the values from greatest to least, or reverse alphabetic order if the values are text values.

To sort multiple columns of text, select the columns to be sorted. Only the selected columns will be sorted, so be sure to choose the entire data record before you sort data. If you do not, data from various records will be mixed together. Choose Data > Sort …. The Sort dialogue box will appear. Identify the most important sort criteria and identify whether the sort should be performed in ascending or descending order. The Sort dialogue box should show your column labels or the first data cell in each column, if there are no data labels. You may choose up to three sort criteria and indicate for each choice the sort order you expect. You can also indicate whether or not your data have a header row and set options that control how case sensitivity is handled.

Once you have set your sort criteria, press OK. Your data will be sorted according to the order you’ve specified. If you find that you are sorting data in Excel 2003 incorrectly, you may press Ctrl-Z or select Undo from the Edit menu to undo the sort and return your data to its unsorted state.

Notes for editors: Claire Blinman is the training manager at Computer Training Solutions in Bristol. Computer Training Solutions offer Excel courses or call 0800 019 6882

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