How to Sort Two Columns in Excel?

How to Sort Two Columns in Excel

Sorting two columns in Excel is a fundamental skill that enhances your data analysis and presentation. This process can be applied in various contexts, whether you’re organizing a list of names by last name and then by first name, or sorting a list of items by category and then by price. Here’s a step-by-step guide to effectively sort two columns in Excel.

Step 1: Open Your Excel Workbook

Start by opening the Excel workbook that contains the data you wish to sort. Navigate to the worksheet where your data is located.

Step 2: Select Your Data

Click on any cell in one of the columns you want to sort. If your data is in a table format, Excel will automatically detect the entire table. For non-table data, you might need to manually select the range of cells you want to sort by clicking and dragging across the cells.

Step 3: Access the Sort Dialog Box

With your data selected, navigate to the “Data” tab on the Ribbon. Look for the “Sort” button and click on it to open the Sort dialog box. This is where you’ll specify how you want to sort your columns.

Step 4: Add Your First Sort Level

In the Sort dialog box, you’ll see a dropdown menu labeled “Sort by.” This is where you’ll select your primary column for sorting. After selecting the column, decide whether you want to sort the data in ascending or descending order.

Step 5: Add Your Second Sort Level

Click on the “Add Level” button to include another sorting criterion. This allows you to add the second column you want to sort. Just like with the first column, select the column from the dropdown menu and choose the order of sorting.

Step 6: Execute the Sort

Once you’ve set up your sorting criteria for both columns, click “OK” in the Sort dialog box. Excel will sort your data based on the preferences you’ve specified.

Step 7: Review Your Sorted Data

After sorting, take a moment to review your data to ensure it’s organized as expected. If it’s not, you can always repeat the steps above to adjust your sorting criteria.

By following these seven steps, you can effectively sort two columns in Excel to organize your data more meaningfully. Whether you’re preparing a report, analyzing data, or simply trying to make sense of a large dataset, sorting is a powerful tool at your disposal.

Remember, the key to successfully sorting two columns in Excel lies in understanding how Excel’s sorting hierarchy works. The program first sorts data based on your primary criterion and then applies the secondary sort within that initial sorting. This hierarchical approach allows for nuanced and useful organization of your data.

Repeat this process as needed to become proficient in sorting two columns in Excel, enhancing your ability to quickly analyze and interpret your data. Whether you’re a novice or an experienced Excel user, mastering this process will significantly improve your data management skills.


1. How do I sort two columns in Excel simultaneously?

Select both columns by clicking on the header of the first column, then hold down the Ctrl key and click on the header of the second column. Go to the “Data” tab, click on “Sort,” and choose the sorting options you prefer.

2. Can I sort one column while keeping the other column intact?

Yes, you can. When sorting, Excel automatically adjusts the corresponding values in the other column to maintain their alignment. If you want to sort one column independently, you can copy and paste it into a new location before sorting.

3. What if I want to sort one column in ascending order and the other in descending order?

Excel allows you to specify different sorting orders for each column. After selecting both columns, go to the “Sort” options and set the sorting order individually for each column.

4. Can I sort two columns based on the values of a third column?

Yes, you can achieve this using custom sorting. First, sort the third column based on your desired criteria. Then, select the entire data range, including the two columns you want to sort, and choose “Sort” from the “Data” tab. In the Sort dialog box, select “Sort by” the third column, and then “Add Level” to sort by the first and second columns.

5. Will sorting two columns affect other data in my Excel sheet?

Sorting two columns only rearranges the data within those columns and does not affect data in other columns or cells. However, if your data is part of a larger dataset with related information in other columns, make sure to select the entire dataset before sorting to maintain the integrity of your data.

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