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: Use Filenames that Sort Properly.

Use Filenames That Sort Properly

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated December 13, 2017)

It is not uncommon to work on projects that require several workbooks. When you are naming files for your project, you should use names which will later sort properly when you use various functions of Excel. For instance, the Open dialog box shows the files in the current directory. If your files are named properly, they will always appear in order on the list.

I ensure this by starting all files related to a project with a number of digits that represent the order in which the workbook appears in the project. For instance, if the project entails workbooks from the last quarter of 2012 and the first quarter of 2013, then the files may be named as follows:

201210 Actual Figures.xlsx
201211 Actual Figures.xlsx
201212 Actual Figures.xlsx
201301 Actual Figures.xlsx
201302 Actual Figures.xlsx
201303 Actual Figures.xlsx

The files sort properly because they begin with the year. If they began with the month, then the first quarter of 2013 would sort before the last quarter of 2012, which is not nearly as helpful an order.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2233) 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: Use Filenames that Sort Properly.

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. ...


Adding Captions

Need to add a caption after a document element such as a figure or table? You can add and format one manually, or you can ...

Discover More

Dissecting a String

Want to pull a string apart in a macro? It's easy using the string functions introduced in this tip.

Discover More

Replacing Spaces in Part Numbers with Dashes

Word has a power capability to search for information and then replace that information in some way. Finding the right ...

Discover More

Comprehensive VBA Guide Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) is the language used for writing macros in all Office programs. This complete guide shows both professionals and novices how to master VBA in order to customize the entire Office suite for their needs. Check out Mastering VBA for Office 2010 today!

More ExcelTips (menu)

Importing Multiple Files to a Single Workbook

If you use Excel to work with data exported from another program, you might be interested in a way to import a large ...

Discover More

Adding a File Path and Filename

If you need to stuff the current workbook's filename and path into a cell or a header or footer, you'll appreciate the ...

Discover More

Saving a Workbook with a Preview

When you save your workbooks, Excel can also save a preview image (thumbnail) that can be displayed in the Open dialog ...

Discover More

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.


If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is 1 + 5?

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)

This Site

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.

Newest Tips

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.