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 while Ignoring Leading Characters.

Sorting while Ignoring Leading Characters

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated July 11, 2015)


Ritesh has a huge amount of data that he needs to process in Excel. Each line in a worksheet includes a part number, in column A, by which he needs to sort the records. The problem is that Ritesh cannot do a straight sort; the first four characters of the part numbers need to be ignored. Thus, the sorting actually needs to start with the fifth character of the part number.

The easiest way to handle this situation is to create a new column in Excel that consists entirely of the information you want to use in the sort. In this case, you could add a new, blank column to the right of column A, and then enter this formula in the first cell of the column (assumed to be cell B2):


You'll notice that cell B2 now contains the part number, beginning with the fifth character. Copy this formula down as many cells as necessary, and then perform a standard sort based on the contents of column B. You end up with the records in the desired order. You can then either delete column B, or you can hide it if you may need it later but don't want it to show up.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (3132) 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 while Ignoring Leading Characters.

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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What is four less than 8?

2016-08-25 11:07:42

Joe M

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.

This approach for sorting a cell containing letters and numbers of differing lengths


Worked perfectly, saved me tons of time, and made me look like a hero!

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