How to Alphabetize an Excel Spreadsheet

By Aaron Parson

Whether you need to alphabetize a single column or a complex spreadsheet, learn how to use Excel's Sort feature to make the job easy.

The Sort feature in Excel 2010 and 2013 alphabetizes spreadsheets in a single click, sorting data in any column in either alphabetic direction. For more complex situations, such as spreadsheets with some duplicate cells, open the Sort window to customize the task to fit your needs.

Tip

Before sorting, add a column to your data containing each row's numeric position if you want to return to the original order later.

Quick Sort

Step 1

Select the entire range in your spreadsheet to alphabetize. Click and drag across letter headings to select whole columns.

Step 2

Sort the selection.

Open the Data tab and click the AZ or ZA icon to alphabetize the selection in either direction.

Tip

Excel automatically detects whether your data has a header row when you sort using this method. If it detects incorrectly, use the advanced sorting method instead.

Advanced Sort

Step 1

Open the Sort window.

Click Sort on the Data tab after selecting your data to open the Sort window.

Step 2

Set levels.

Click Add Level to add additional tiers of sorting. Add as many levels as you have columns by which you want to sort. Set the Sort By and Then By drop-down menus to the columns you want alphabetized, starting with the first tier and continuing down.

Tip

For example, to sort a list of cities and states first by state and then -- in the case of duplicate states -- by city, set the top Sort By option to the state and the Then By option to the city.

Step 3

Set the order and headers.

Set the sorting order on each level. Each sorts separately, so you could sort the first level from A to Z but the second level from Z to A.

Tip

The Sort On drop-down menus select which part of each cell to consider when sorting. To alphabetize, leave each setting on Values. Other options sort by formatting features, such as cell color.

Step 4

Check My Data Has Headers if your columns have a header row above the data that needs sorting. Uncheck this option to sort every row in the selection.

Step 5

Click OK to sort the spreadsheet.

Tip

  • By default, Excel sorts data in columns, not rows. To sort along rows, click Options and choose Sort Left to Right.
  • Another option is to transpose your spreadsheet before sorting, flipping rows into columns.