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: Incomplete and Corrupt Sorting.

Incomplete and Corrupt Sorting

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated March 30, 2015)

The sorting capabilities of Excel are quite handy and quite powerful. The different ways you sort information has been covered in quite a few different issues of ExcelTips. What happens, however, if you try to sort something and Excel omits some columns from the sort and otherwise scrambles your data?

The most common cause for this problem is that Excel isn't recognizing all your data. If you select a single cell in the data table, and then click on either the Sort Ascending or Sort Descending tool, Excel makes its best guess as to what data you want sorted. It may not always make a perfect guess, particularly if there are blank columns, blank rows, or large empty ranges in the data.

One way to see if this is the real problem is to press Ctrl+Shift+* (that's an asterisk). This shortcut selects the "region" around the current cell. Essentially, when you start a sort from a single cell, Excel initiates this command before doing the actual sort. If you press Ctrl+Shift+* first, you can get an idea of exactly which columns and rows Excel will sort.

To make sure there is no confusion in what Excel actually sorts, all you need to do is select the range of columns and rows that you want sorted, and then do the sort.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2355) 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: Incomplete and Corrupt Sorting.

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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