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 ZIP Codes.

Sorting ZIP Codes

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated February 9, 2013)

ZIP Codes come in two flavors: five-digit codes and nine-digit codes. If you type a column of ZIP Codes into Excel—some five-digits and some nine—you may wonder why they don't sort correctly.

The reason is that Excel recognizes the five-digit codes as numeric entries and the nine-digit codes as text entries. (It is the dash in the middle of the nine-digit codes that makes Excel treat the entry as text.) The problem with sorting the numbers is that Excel treats numeric and text values differently when sorting.

The solution (without resorting to formulas and additional columns for sorting) is to make sure that you force Excel to treat all your entries as text. You can do this by formatting a column as text before putting in your first ZIP Code. Simply follow these steps:

  1. Select the column (or cells) you want Excel to treat as text.
  2. Choose the Cells option from the Format menu. Excel displays the Format Cells dialog box.
  3. Make sure the Number tab is selected. (See Figure 1.)
  4. Figure 1. The Number tab of the Format Cells dialog box.

  5. In the list of available formats, choose Text.
  6. Click on OK.

This formats the cells as text, and you can then sort the ZIP Codes correctly. Don't be misled here, however: You must make the format change before you enter values in the cells. If you format the cells as text after you enter information, they still won't sort properly. You can do the following, however:

  1. Format the cells as text.
  2. Select a cell that has a five-digit ZIP Code in it.
  3. Press F2. This informs Excel you want to edit the cell.
  4. Immediately press Enter. This tells Excel you are done editing the cell.
  5. Repeat steps 2 through 4 for each cell that contains a five-digit ZIP Code.

Once this process is done, you can sort the cells, as desired.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2793) 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 ZIP Codes.

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. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Leaving Even Pages Blank

Want to print your document only on odd-numbered pages in a printout? There are a couple of things you can try, as detailed ...

Discover More

Deleting Every X Rows without a Macro

Grab some info from a source other than Excel, and you may find the need to delete a certain pattern of rows from a ...

Discover More

Inserting an Image On a Specific Page

Macros are great for processing a document just the way you want. You can even use them to insert graphics, as described in ...

Discover More

Solve Real Business Problems Master business modeling and analysis techniques with Excel and transform data into bottom-line results. This hands-on, scenario-focused guide shows you how to use the latest Excel tools to integrate data from multiple tables. Check out Microsoft Excel 2013 Data Analysis and Business Modeling today!

MORE EXCELTIPS (MENU)

Conditional Page Breaks

Need to have your worksheet printout start on a new page every time a value in a column changes? There are a couple of ways ...

Discover More

Saving Custom Formats

While the implementation of custom formats in Excel is not terribly robust, you can still achieve some amazing results with ...

Discover More

Merge and Center Not Available

What are you to do if you are trying to format a worksheet, only to find out that one of the tools you need is not available? ...

Discover More
Subscribe

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:

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.

Subscribe

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
Share