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 Decimal Values.

Sorting Decimal Values

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated September 16, 2017)

1

Bob often needs to construct tables that are keyed to titles in government regulations. The numbering of the regulations is in decimal form and this creates problems when he tries to sort them in order. Examples are 820.20, 820.25, 820.200, 820.250. Bob enters these as text, but they still come out sorted in a manner that he does not want. In all cases, Excel drops off the trailing zeros and sees "820.20" and "820.200" as the same thing; Bob is wondering what he can do.

First of all, it should be pointed out that if Excel is dropping the trailing zeroes, then the cells are not formatted as text. You'll need to format the cells as text before you put anything in them, or else you'll need to precede the entry with an apostrophe. In either case, the trailing zeroes should remain in place.

Another way to force the entries to text is to modify them in some way. For instance, you could enter "Reg 820.200" instead of "820.200." Or you could replace the period after the 820 with a space or a dash. Any of these methods, and many more, would force the entry to be treated as text.

Even if you force the entry of information to text, that still won't solve the sorting problem, however. Sort a bunch of these cells, and they will still come out in an order you don't want:

820.190
820.2
820.20
820.200
820.201
820.25
820.27

The reason is because the sorting is done from left to right, and in this scheme ".20" will always come before ".200" which always comes before ".25." The only way around this is to modify the structure of the numbers so that (in this case) there are always three digits after the decimal point:

820.002
820.020
820.025
820.027
820.190
820.200
820.201

While this gives the proper sorting order, it does havoc to the original intent: to match the numbering used in the governmental numbering system. If you want to be true to that numbering scheme, the only solution is to use three columns for your numbering. The first column would be the government numbers, entered as text. The second column would be the part those numbers to the left of the decimal point, derived with a formula:

=LEFT(A1,FIND(".",A1)-1)

The third column would be the portion to the right of the decimal point, derived with this formula:

=RIGHT(A1,LEN(A1)-FIND(".",A1))

With the three columns in place, you can then do your sorting based on the contents of the second and third columns. After the numbers are sorted, you can hide the second and third columns, as desired.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (3836) 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 Decimal Values.

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

Formatting Datasheet Numbers

Controlling the appearance of numbers in a datasheet.

Discover More

Inserting the Edit Time

One of the things that Word keeps track of is how long, in minutes, you've been editing your current document. This ...

Discover More

Quickly Clearing Array Contents

An array of variables is a powerful element of VBA programming. If you want to clear what is stored in an array, here's a ...

Discover More

Save Time and Supercharge Excel! Automate virtually any routine task and save yourself hours, days, maybe even weeks. Then, learn how to make Excel do things you thought were simply impossible! Mastering advanced Excel macros has never been easier. Check out Excel 2010 VBA and Macros today!

More ExcelTips (menu)

Too Many Formats when Sorting

Sorting is one of the basic operations done in a worksheet. If your sorting won't work and you instead get an error ...

Discover More

Controlling Sorting Order

When you sort information in a worksheet, you have control over the order in which that information is sorted. Here's a ...

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
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

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. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. 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 eight minus 5?

2017-12-11 11:28:35

Mo Williams

Hi Allen,

I'm trying to do something similar to the above but with a 5 level hierarchy, i.e.

1
1.1
1.10
1.11
1.12
1.13
1.14
1.15
1.16
1.17
1.18
1.19
1.2
1.20
1.21
1.3
1.4
1.5
1.6
1.7
1.8
1.9
1.1.1.1.1
1.1.2
1.1.3
1.2.1
1.2.2
1.2.2.1
1.2.2.2
1.2.2.1.1
1.2.2.1.2

but excel sorts it like this

1
1.1
1.1.1.1.1
1.1.2
1.1.3
1.10
1.11
1.12
1.13
1.14
1.15
1.16
1.17
1.18
1.19
1.2
1.2.1
1.2.2
1.2.2.1
1.2.2.2
1.2.2.2.1
1.2.2.2.2
1.2.2.2.3
1.20
1.21
1.3
1.4
1.5
1.6
1.7
1.8
1.9

can I expand your formulas above to apply to five levels?

Thanks in advance,

Mo


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.

Newest Tips
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.