Got a version of Excel that uses the menu interface (Excel 97, Excel 2000, Excel 2002, or Excel 2003)? This site is for you! If you use a later version of Excel, visit our ExcelTips site focusing on the ribbon interface.
With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company.
Learn more about Allen...
Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Excel 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Excel, click here: Sorting Letters and Numbers.
Let's say that you have a worksheet in which a particular column contains entries such as F1, F2, F3, etc., all the way up to F149. If you need to sort the data in the worksheet based on the contents of this column, the results may disappoint you. Because the first character in each cell is a letter, Excel sorts the column as text.
The upshot is that the cells are sorted in the order F1, F10, F100, F101, F102, etc. In this arrangement, F2 doesn't show up until the sixty-second entry in the sorted list. The reason this happens is because the cells are treated as text. As text, all the cells starting with F1 (there are 61 of them) come before the cells starting with F2.
The only way around this situation is to make sure that the numbers in the cells are front-padded with zeros. In other words, you shouldn't use F1, but F001. You can use the following formula to convert the old format numbers to the new format:
=LEFT(C1,1) & RIGHT("000" & RIGHT(C1,LEN(C1)-1),3)
Now, when you sort by the newly formatted entries, you get the desired results: F001, F002, F003, etc.
ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2609) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Excel (Excel 2007 and later) here: Sorting Letters and Numbers.
Tame Your Data! ExcelTips: Filters and Filtering provides all the details necessary to let you manage large sets of data with confidence and ease. Its information-packed pages demonstrate how to use the two types of filters provided by Excel: AutoFilters and advanced filters. Check out ExcelTips: Filters and Filtering today!