How to Sort Multiple Rows & Columns in Excel

By Bill Brown

In addition to operating as a sophisticated computational spreadsheet program, Excel can be used as a database. After entering your data, it can all be sorted by whatever criteria and in whatever order you choose. The Sort command in Excel is a flexible tool, and you can arrange your information quickly so you can create reports, for example, for different purposes. The command will automatically read your data for a header (labels for your data), if you choose, and from there you can sort a block of rows and columns.

Step 1

Highlight the rows and columns you wish to sort by clicking and dragging. Alternatively, place the cursor in one of the corners of the area of the spreadsheet you want to sort, hold down the "Shift" key, and use the arrow keys to highlight the area to sort. The area must be contiguous and rectangular; you cannot sort areas that are not connected.

Step 2

Click on the "Data" command at the top of the window, then choose "Sort."

Step 3

Click on the option you want at the bottom of the pop-up window labeled "My list has." If you choose "Header row," Excel will use the top row as the header and not sort it; if you choose "No header row," it will sort the top row with the other data.

Step 4

Choose the column you wish to begin your sort with from the drop down menu under the "Sort by" heading in the pop-up window. If you are using a header row, the drop down menu will show you the contents of the top cell of each column, if not, you will see "Column A," "Column B," etc.

Step 5

Make further choices for the order you want the data sorted into by using the "Then by" selections in the pop-up window. This allows you to sort, for instance, by last name followed by first name.

Step 6

Click "OK" at the bottom of the pop-up window to sort the data.