Sorting by Columns

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated September 2, 2023)
This tip applies to Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003


Most sorting in Excel is done by row, meaning that you order the rows based on the contents of a particular column in the information being sorted. At times you may have a need to change the orientation of your sorting, meaning you need to sort columns based on the contents of a particular row.

Excel makes sorting by column easy, although it is not particularly intuitive. Simply follow these steps:

  1. Select the range of cells you want to sort. Make sure you select the column headers in the range.
  2. Choose the Sort option from the Data menu. Excel displays the Sort dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  3. Figure 1. The Sort dialog box.

  4. Click on the Options button. Excel displays the Sort Options dialog box. (See Figure 2.)
  5. Figure 2. The Sort Options dialog box.

  6. Choose the Sort Left to Right option button.
  7. Click on OK to close the Sort Options dialog box.
  8. Click on OK to sort your data.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2709) 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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