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Wednesday 3 April 2019

Excel Tip: Sorting a list - an introduction

Sorting a list is a very common use of Excel but there are a few things to consider when you do, and a few extra features that you may not be aware of.

The first task is selecting the data you want to sort.

If your data is in a table, if you select any cell in the table, Excel will assume that you want to sort the whole table.

If the data is not in a table, Excel will still guess what you want to sort, however I think it is better to pro-actively choose, rather than assume that Excel will get it right!

Make sure you highlight all of the rows in the range you want to sort. You can highlight whole columns by clicking on the column letters, which will ensure that all rows are included (not a good idea if you have other data below your list though).

Also, make sure that all the columns in your data are included, otherwise you could end up irrevocably breaking up rows of data, by sorting some columns and not others!

Once you have selected your data, click one of the sort buttons.

Clicking either of the two small buttons will sort based upon the first column of your data, either ascending or descending. The larger sort button (ringed above) gives you a lot more flexibility.

Clicking this will reveal the following box:

The first thing to check is that the tickbox "My data has headers" is correct, as, if ticked, this will treat the first row of your range as headers and not include it in the sort.

You can then choose which column to sort on. This is a dropdown of the column headings (if the tick box is ticked), or the column letters if not.

For the purposes of this introduction, we will assume that you want to sort by the contents of the cell (Cell Values in the Sort on dropdown), then in the final box you can select the order you want to sort in. The options will change, depending on the type of data in the column being sorted, e.g. A to Z for text, Smallest to largest for Numbers, Oldest to newest for dates, and all of their opposites.

Then click OK and your range will be sorted.

In a future post we will dig a bit deeper into the sorting options, including how to sort on multiple columns.

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Tuesday 26 February 2019

Excel Tip: Some useful keyboard shortcuts to save you time

Hello stranger!

I must start by apologising for the huge expanse of time that has passed since my last post. My consultancy workload has increased over the last year or so and the blog has been the main casualty!

I'm still pretty busy and may not be able to post as regularly as I have at some times in the past, but I will endeavour to post at least a post a month.

OK, on with this month's post...

Personally, I am not a huge user of keyboard shortcuts - as I struggle to remember too many - but there are a few that I find particularly useful, and I thought I'd share those with you. I'm sure many of you have your own favourites, so please share them in the comments. Mine are all for the Windows version. Any Mac users please feel free to post the Apple equivalents.

Here are my favourites...

F4 - add dollar signs

I use this one all of the time. To add the dollar signs that fix rows and columns in formulae, you can simply press F4 while your cursor is on the cell reference in the formula, and each time you press it it will toggle to the next combination of $ signs in the following sequence - none, fix column and row, fix row, fix column and back to none.  If you don't understand how the dollar signs work, take a look at one of my most popular posts - The dollar sign ($) in a formula - Fixing cell references.

Ctrl+; - Enter today's date

This one is really useful when entering data into a spreadsheet, you can enter today's date into the current cell by simply pressing the Ctrl key and the semicolon together.

Ctrl+Shift+; - Enter the current time

Similar to the shortcut above, you can enter the current time into the current cell by pressing the Ctrl  and Shift keys and the semicolon together.

Ctrl+C - Copy
Ctrl+V - Paste
Ctrl+X - Cut

These are standard windows shortcuts, but are as useful in Excel as elsewhere. Be wary though about using cut/copy and paste generally, see these earlier posts if you aren't aware of them:

Alt+F11 - Open Visual Basic Editor

This is a one for the coders out there and provides a quick method to open the Visual Basic Editor. This shortcut holds a special place in my heart as I managed to completely forget what it was on a live Webinar I was doing for the ICAEW!

F9 - Calculate

This forces a recalculation of your Excel Workbook, which is useful if you have manual calculation switched on. A lesser known use is that you can highlight a section of a formula and press F9 and it will swap the highlighted text for its value - this is great for trying to find where the problem is in a long formula! See this post for more details - How to evaluate individual parts of a large formula.

As I said, I'm not a big shortcut user, so I'm sure many will consider some of the ones I haven't listed a travesty, so please restore justice in the comments!

If you enjoyed this post, go to the top of the blog, where you can subscribe for regular updates and get two freebies "The 5 Excel features that you NEED to know" and "30 Chants for Better Charts".