Sorting by Fill Color

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated March 30, 2013)

Chuck wrote about a need he has to sort records in a worksheet based on the fill color used in a cell. Excel provides no intrinsic function to perform such an action, but it is possible to create a user-defined function that will help with any sorting that needs to be done. Consider the following macro:

Function GetFillColor(rng As Range) As Long
    GetFillColor = rng.Interior.ColorIndex
End Function

Assuming the fill colors are in the cells of column A, all you need to do is make sure there is an empty column B. Then place the following formula in cell B2 and copy it down for each record:

=GetFillColor(A2)

When you are done, column B will contain the index values of each fill color used in column A. You can then sort by column B, which has the result of grouping all the like fill colors together.

If you need to get more elaborate, for instance, if you need to sort in a particular order (yellow first, red second, green third, etc.), then you cannot rely solely on the fill color's index value. In such an instance you must rely on a different method of returning a color. Consider the following macro:

Function GetColor(rngIndex As Range, rngSource As Range) As Long
    Dim lngColor As Long
    Dim J As Integer

    Application.Volatile
    lngColor = rngSource.Interior.ColorIndex

    GetColor = 99       'Set to default color
    For J = 1 To rngIndex.Count
        If rngIndex(J).Interior.ColorIndex = lngColor Then
            GetColor = J
        End If
    Next J
End Function

This macro works differently than the last one. It requires two ranges to work properly. The first range is basically a color table which indicates the order in which you want colors sorted. For instance, cells E1 through E9 could contain the nine colors you want to use for sorting, in the order that you want them sorted. You would then place the following formula in cell B2 and copy it down for each record:

=GetColor($E$1:$E$9,A2)

The result is that column B will contain the values 1 through 9, representing the colors in your color table. If the color in a cell does not have a corresponding color in the color table, then the function returns the value of 99. When you sort the records in your table, you end up with them sorted as you want.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2009) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

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. ...

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