How to Sort Multiple Rows and Columns in Excel: A Step-by-Step Guide

Sorting multiple rows and columns in Excel allows you to organize your data in a way that makes it easier to analyze and understand. After you sort your data, you will see it arranged according to the criteria you’ve set, which could be alphabetical, numerical, or based on custom rules.


Ever faced the challenge of sifting through a massive table of data, trying to find some semblance of order? Whether you’re a student analyzing research data, an entrepreneur tracking inventory, or an office worker preparing a report, sorting data in Excel is a crucial skill that can save time and headaches. Sorting multiple rows and columns can seem daunting at first, but once you’ve got the hang of it, you’ll wonder how you ever managed without it.

Understanding how to effectively sort data can make your work more efficient and your analysis more accurate. Knowing how to manipulate and organize information is essential in our data-driven world, and Excel is one of the most widely used tools for this purpose. So, let’s dive in and become proficient at sorting multiple rows and columns in Excel!

Step by Step Tutorial on How to Sort Multiple Rows and Columns in Excel

Before we begin, it’s important to understand that following these steps will help you streamline your data, making it more accessible and easier to work with.

Step 1: Select Your Data

First, click and drag to select the cells you want to sort.

Selecting the correct range of data is crucial to sorting in Excel. If you select too little or too much, you might not get the results you’re looking for. Make sure to include all the rows and columns that are relevant to your sort.

Step 2: Open the Sort Dialog Box

Next, go to the Data tab and click on the Sort button.

The Sort dialog box is where the magic happens. Here, you can define the criteria for sorting your data, such as which column to sort by and whether to sort in ascending or descending order.

Step 3: Choose Your Sort Criteria

In the Sort dialog box, set your first sort by choosing the column, sort on, and order.

You can sort by values, cell color, font color, or cell icon, depending on how your data is formatted. The order can be A to Z, Z to A, smallest to largest, or largest to smallest, among other custom options.

Step 4: Add Levels

To sort by multiple columns, click on Add Level, and repeat step 3 for each additional column.

Adding levels allows you to sort data based on multiple criteria. For example, you could first sort by last name, and then by first name to organize a list of names alphabetically.

Step 5: Execute the Sort

Once your criteria are set, click OK, and Excel will sort your data accordingly.

After the sort is complete, you’ll see your data arranged just the way you wanted it. Make sure to review the sorted data to ensure everything has been sorted correctly.


Improved Data AnalysisSorting data allows you to quickly identify trends and patterns, making analysis faster and more accurate.
Time-SavingInstead of manually searching for information, a well-sorted dataset can save you hours of work.
Enhanced ReadabilitySorted data is easier to read and understand, which can be particularly beneficial when sharing your work with others.


Potential for ErrorsIf not done carefully, sorting can lead to data being misplaced or lost, especially if rows of data are not sorted together.
Overwriting DataIf you’re not careful, you might accidentally overwrite data when sorting, which could be a problem if you don’t have a backup.
Complexity with Large DatasetsSorting large datasets can be complex and might require more advanced knowledge of Excel’s sorting features.

Additional Information

When sorting data in Excel, it’s essential to consider whether your data has headers. If it does, make sure to check the ‘My data has headers’ box in the Sort dialog box to prevent your header row from being sorted into your data. Additionally, remember that sorting can be undone using the Undo feature (Ctrl + Z), but it’s always a good idea to save your work before you sort, just in case.

Another tip: If you’re working with exceptionally large datasets, Excel’s built-in sorting features might not be enough. In such cases, you might need to use more advanced techniques, such as creating custom sort orders or using macros to automate the sorting process. However, for most everyday tasks, the standard sorting tools will be more than sufficient.


  1. Select the data to sort.
  2. Open the Sort dialog box.
  3. Set the primary sort criteria.
  4. Add levels for additional criteria.
  5. Execute the sort.

Frequently Asked Questions

What if my data is not sorting correctly?

Make sure that all the cells in your selected range have the same format and that you’ve chosen the correct sort order in the Sort dialog box.

Can I sort data by multiple criteria at once?

Yes, you can sort by multiple criteria by adding levels in the Sort dialog box.

How do I sort data that has headers?

Check the ‘My data has headers’ box in the Sort dialog box to ensure your headers are not included in the sort.

Can I undo a sort in Excel?

Yes, you can use the Undo feature (Ctrl + Z) to revert your data to its previous order.

What do I do if sorting changes the layout of my data?

Always ensure that entire rows or columns are selected before sorting to maintain the data layout. It’s also a good practice to save your work before you begin sorting.


Sorting multiple rows and columns in Excel is a foundational skill that can significantly enhance your data management abilities. Whether it’s for academic research, business inventories, or personal use, efficient sorting can lead to clearer insights and better decision-making.

Remember always to back up your data before sorting, to carefully select your sort criteria, and to familiarize yourself with additional features for larger datasets. With these tips and steps, you’ll be well on your way to becoming an Excel sorting pro!

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