Quick-and-dirty text sorting in Microsoft Word


A reader wrote me this past week with a little problem, one that they were taking a few too many steps to solve:

Reader Question

We often have to decide whether to capture data in Excel or in a Word document using a “table” format. We usually like the look and editing function better in Word because we are mostly tracking text entries with some date columns, not large amounts of numerical data. Am I correct that if we use Word, the data in the cells can’t be re-sorted within the document, say by date and then by last name? Assuming that’s correct, we often need to use Excel. Is there a simple way to take the data from an Excel spreadsheet and plunk it into a Word document where it will look better?

Good news: it’s really very easy to sort tabular data in Microsoft Word, so there’s (usually) no need to use Excel as an intermediary step.

To sort the table, select the entire table by clicking on the plus sign that shows up in the upper left-hand corner of the table whenever you hover your mouse over it:

Word table data to be sorted

On the Home tab in Word, you’ll see a button in the Paragraph section that looks like this:  

Word Sort Button

Click that to bring up the Sort dialog:

Microsoft Word Sort Dialog Box

Usually, if your cursor is anywhere in the table, Word will sense that and adjust this dialog box accordingly (i.e. sense which columns have dates, etc.).  You will, however, want to be sure the right radio button under “My list has [Header row] [No header row]” is selected so it won’t sort your header along with the data.  (That also will pick up the header field names, as you can see above.)

But what if your data isn’t already in a table?  If it’s a pretty straightforward list of first names and last names, for example, then that’s pretty easy too (with some limitations):

video thumbnail

About the author 

Deborah Savadra

I spend an inordinate amount of my time playing with computers and attempting to explain technology to lawyers and law office staff. It's not always easy, but someone's got to do it.

But, seriously, I'm a law firm software trainer by trade with nearly 30 years of experience in and around law firms and their technology. This blog is my attempt to spread the word about better and more efficient ways to use Microsoft Office in a legal practice context.

  1. Sorting of data is an integral part of data analysis.Assume that you are working as a data analyst in an organization.The organization’s data consists of two types i.e. text and numeric data (dates, net sales and symbols i.e. alphanumeric data).In your opinion which application software among MS word or MS excel is best suitable to sort this type of data.Support your answer with solid reasons.

Comments are closed.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

How do your Word skills stack up?

Whether you're getting ready for a job interview or just looking to "skill up" to meet daily demands, this Word Skills Checklist can help you find the gaps in your knowledge of basic to intermediate Microsoft Word skills. Click the button below to download your copy today!