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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.
Organize Your Data! Using the powerful sorting capabilities of Excel can help you get your data into just the order you need. Find out how you can use the full capabilities of sorting to your benefit. Check out ExcelTips: Serious Sorting today!