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 Data Containing Merged Cells.

Sorting Data Containing Merged Cells

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated September 10, 2016)


Excel has long included the ability to merge adjacent cells into a larger, single cell. This ability has been used by many worksheet designers to give their worksheets a polished, professional look.

There is a huge drawback to using merged cells, however: You can't sort tables that include them. If you try, you'll get a message that says "The operation requires the merged cells to be identically sized."

The most obvious solution to the problem is to not use merged cells. Let's say, for instance, that you have a worksheet in which each "record" actually consists of two rows, and that the first column of the worksheet contains merged cells. (Each two-row record starts with two merged cells spanning the two rows. This merged cell contains a project name.)

It is better to unmerge the cells in the first column, but then you may wonder how to make the records sort properly in the worksheet; how to keep the row pairs together during a sort. You can do this by putting your project name in the first row and the project name appended with "zz" in the second row. For instance, if the first row contains "Wilburn Chemical" (the project name), then the second row could contain "Wilburn Chemicalzz". Format the second row's cell so the name doesn't show up (such as white text on a white background), and you can then successfully sort as you want to.

Another solution is to use a macro to juggle your worksheet and get the sorting done. Assuming that the merged cells are in column A (as previously described), you can use the following macro to sort the data by the contents of column A:

Sub SortList()
    Dim sAddStart As String
    Dim rng As Range
    Dim rng2 As Range
    Dim lRows As Long

    Application.ScreenUpdating = False
    sAddStart = Selection.Address
    Set rng = Range("A1").CurrentRegion

    With rng
        lRows = .Rows.Count - 1
        .Cells(1).Offset(0, -1) = "Temp"
        .Cells(1).Offset(1, -1).FormulaR1C1 = _
          "=+RC[1]&"" ""&ROW()"
        .Cells(1).Offset(2, -1).FormulaR1C1 = _
          "=+R[-1]C[1]&"" ""&ROW()"
        Set rng2 = .Cells(1).Offset(1, -1).Resize(lRows, 1)
        Range(.Cells(2, 0), .Cells(3, 0)).AutoFill _
        rng2.PasteSpecial Paste:=xlValues

        .Columns(1).MergeCells = False

    .CurrentRegion.Sort _
        Key1:=Range("A2"), Order1:=xlAscending, _
        Header:=xlYes, OrderCustom:=1, _
        MatchCase:=False, Orientation:=xlTopToBottom


        With Range(.Cells(2, 1), .Cells(3, 1))
            .Cells(3, 1).Resize(lRows - 2, 1). _
                PasteSpecial Paste:=xlFormats
        End With
    End With
    Application.CutCopyMode = False
    Application.ScreenUpdating = True
End Sub

The macro inserts a temporary column, reads the items from the first column of the list, appends the row number, copies it down the temporary column, unmerges the cells, sorts the list, deletes the temporary column, and re-merges column A. (That's a lot of work just to sort a table with merged cells!)

This macro is very specific to a particular layout of your data, and therefore would need to be tested and probably modified to make sure it would work with data formatted in any other way.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2581) 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 Data Containing Merged Cells.

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 a Background to Your Document

Document backgrounds come in handy if you plan on converting the document to a Web page. Here's how you can add a background ...

Discover More

Running Macros from Macros

Need to run one macro from within another macro? You can easily do it by using the Run method of the Application object, as ...

Discover More

Discovering the RGB Value of a Custom Text Color

Word allows you to easily change the color of the text in your document. If you get a document from someone else, you may ...

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!


Sorting Huge Lists

Got a huge amount of data you need to sort in a worksheet, but Excel doesn't seem to be sorting it correctly? Here's some ...

Discover More

Incomplete and Corrupt Sorting

Using the sorting tools, on the toolbar, may result in some unwanted results, such as jumbled data. If this happens to you, ...

Discover More

Sorting by Colors

Need to sort your data based on the color of the cell? Excel doesn't include this capability, but you can still do the ...

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.

Comments for this tip:

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. 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 seven minus 6?

2016-10-04 04:31:15


When i clikc on Run Macto then following error shos:
Run-time error '1004'
to do this, all the merged cells need to be the same size

and i click debug then the following line show error.

.CurrentRegion.Sort _
Key1:=Range("A2"), Order1:=xlAscending, _
Header:=xlYes, OrderCustom:=1, _
MatchCase:=False, Orientation:=xlTopToBottom.

my sheet data examle show below

1. A2 and A3 are merged and having Serial No
2. B2 and B3 are merged and having Labour ID
3. C2 having data "Name" and C3 having data "Father's Name"
4. D2 and D3 are again merged and having Labour Designation.

Now i wants to sort data in column B "Labour ID"

please help because my all sheets having data in thousand of labours

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.

Links and Sharing