How to Sort Alphabetically in Excel: Tips and Tricks from a Spreadsheet Pro

Ah, Excel. Some people love it, some people hate it, but most of us can't avoid it. You might use it every day for work, or maybe you only open it once a month to pay your bills. One thing is for sure: at some point, you'll need to sort data alphabetically in Excel.

Sorting in Excel is easy, but if you're new to the software, you might not know where to start. In this article, I'll show you step-by-step how to sort alphabetically in Excel, from A to Z and from Z to A. I'll also share some helpful tips and tricks to make your Excel experience smoother and more efficient.

Why Sort Data in Excel?

You might wonder why you'd need to sort data in Excel. After all, isn't it easier to just scan through the columns and find what you're looking for?

Well, sorting data in Excel can have several advantages:

  • It can help you organize your data better, especially if you're dealing with a large dataset. Sorting allows you to group similar items together and makes it easier to spot patterns.
  • If you're working with dates or time, sorting can help you see trends more clearly.
  • Sorting is often necessary if you want to perform other operations on your data, such as filtering or searching.

How to Sort Alphabetically in Excel

Now that we've established why sorting in Excel is useful, let's get to the how. Here's what you need to do to sort alphabetically in Excel.

  1. Select the column you want to sort. You can do this by clicking on the column letter at the top of the Excel window.
  2. Go to the "Data" tab in the Excel ribbon, and click on the "Sort A to Z" or "Sort Z to A" button, depending on how you want to sort your data. A to Z will sort your data in ascending order (from the lowest to the highest value), while Z to A will sort your data in descending order (from the highest to the lowest value).

That's it! Excel will automatically rearrange your data based on your selected column and sort order. If you have headers in your table, Excel will ask you to confirm if you want to sort your data with or without headers. Choose whichever option makes more sense for your data.

If you want to sort by multiple columns, you can do so by clicking on the "Sort" button in the "Data" tab and selecting "Custom Sort". From there, you can add additional columns to sort by and specify the order for each column.

Tips and Tricks for Sorting in Excel

While sorting in Excel is easy, there are a few things you can do to make the process even smoother and more efficient. Here are some tips and tricks to help you sort like a pro.


If you're working with a large dataset and you only want to see specific values, you can use Excel's AutoFilter function. AutoFilter allows you to filter your data by specific values, including text, numbers, and dates.

To use AutoFilter:

  1. Select the column you want to filter. Go to the "Data" tab, and click on the "Filter" button.
  2. Excel will automatically add dropdown menus to the header row of your selected column. Click on the dropdown menu for the values you want to filter by, and select the values you want to see.
  3. Excel will hide all the rows that don't meet your filter criteria, leaving you with only the rows that match your filter.

You can remove the AutoFilter by going back to the "Data" tab and clicking on the "Clear" button in the "Sort & Filter" section.

Custom Sort Lists

Excel allows you to create your own custom sort lists, which can be especially useful if you're working with data that has specific naming conventions or if you're dealing with international data.

To create a custom sort list:

  1. Go to the "File" tab, and click on "Options".
  2. Select "Advanced" from the left-hand menu, and scroll down to "General".
  3. Click on "Edit Custom Lists".
  4. In the "Custom Lists" window, type the items you want to include in your custom sort list, with each item on a new line. You can also import a list from a file.
  5. Once you've created your custom sort list, you can use it in the "Sort A to Z" or "Sort Z to A" functions by selecting "Custom List" from the "Order" dropdown menu.

Shortcut Keys

If you're a keyboard ninja, you might prefer to use Excel's shortcut keys to sort your data. Here are some useful shortcuts:

  • Alt + A + S + S: Sort A to Z
  • Alt + A + S + D: Sort Z to A
  • Alt + D + F + F: Open the AutoFilter dropdown menu

These are just a few of the many shortcut keys Excel offers. If you want to see a full list, you can press the "Alt" key and look for the underlined letters in the Excel ribbon.

In Conclusion

Sorting alphabetically in Excel might seem like a minor skill, but it's a useful one that can save you time and help you organize your data better. By following the steps in this article and using some of the tips and tricks I've shared, you'll be able to sort like a pro in no time. Happy sorting!

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