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.
Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated July 30, 2020)
This tip applies to Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003
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.
Professional Development Guidance! Four world-class developers offer start-to-finish guidance for building powerful, robust, and secure applications with Excel. The authors show how to consistently make the right design decisions and make the most of Excel's powerful features. Check out Professional Excel Development today!
Government and industrial organizations often use a numbering system that relies upon a number both before and after a ...Discover More
One way you can easily work with data in a worksheet is to sort it into whatever order you find most helpful. Excel ...Discover More
Need to do the same sorting operation over and over again? Excel doesn't provide a way to save your sorting criteria, but ...Discover More
FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."
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.