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Excel 2003: The Missing Manual by Matthew MacDonald

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Sorting and Filtering a List

As you've seen, Excel data lists make it easier to enter, edit, and manage large collections of information. Now it's time to meet two of the most useful data list features:

  • Sorting lets you order the items in your list alphabetically or numerically according to the information in a column. By using the correct criteria, you can make sure the information you're interested in appears at the top of the column, and you can make it easier to find an item anywhere in your list.

  • Filtering lets you display only certain records in your list based on specific criteria you enter. Filtering gives you the ability to work with part of your data and temporarily hide the information you aren't interested in.

You can quickly apply sorting and filtering using the drop-down column headers that Excel adds to every list.

Applying a Simple Sort Order

Before you can sort your data, you need to choose a sorting key. The sorting key is the piece of information that Excel uses to order your records. For example, if you want to sort a list of products so that the cheapest products appear at the top of the list, the Price column would be the sorting key to use.

In addition to choosing a sorting key, you also need to decide whether you want to use ascending or descending order. Ascending order, which is most common, organizes numbers from smallest to largest, dates from oldest to most recent, and text in alphabetical order. (If you have more than one type of data in the same column—which ...

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