Software

Perform quick sorts in Word without using a table

Sorting doesn't seem to come naturally to Word, but that's just because you don't know where to look!

Sorting in Excel is common and easy. It's not quite as common in Word, but the need does arise. For instance, you might want to sort a list of names, countries, companies, and so on. Sorting a simple list is easy, almost as easy as in Excel. Let's look at two sorting tasks, starting with the easiest.

Easy

I often see people use tables to sort, but that's (almost always) more work than is necessary. The simple list below is easily sorted, without converting the text into a table first, as long as each item in the sort is its own paragraph. Simply put, you can have only one sort item per line.

To sort this simple list of names, by first name (because that's the name that occurs first on each line), do the following:

  1. Select the list.
  2. From the Table menu, choose Sort. In Word 2007, click Sort in the Paragraph group on the Home tab.
  3. From the Sort By dropdown, choose Paragraphs.
  4. From the Type dropdown, choose Text. (To sort numbers and dates, choose the appropriate data type from the Type dropdown.)
  5. Click OK.

That's all there is to it! Now, that really was easy, wasn't it?

A little more work, but just barely

Now, what if you want to sort the list by last names? It's certainly doable, and without too much more work. In truth, the work isn't in the actual steps you must perform, but in just knowing what to do! Sorting by the last name is just as easy as sorting by the first—you just select a different setting, as follows:

  1. Select the list.
  2. From the Table menu, choose Sort. In Word 2007, click Sort in the Paragraph group on the Home tab.
  3. From the Sort By dropdown, choose Word2. This is where things can get a bit dicey. The items in your list must be uniform, say two words (names) per line, separated by a space character. If the list isn't uniform in this way, the sort probably won't work.
  4. From the Type dropdown, choose Text.
  5. Click OK.

This time, Word sorted the whole list by the second word in each line. Word doesn't care about the context of the list items—Word only cares about each word's position. In addition, you can use a Tab character to separate words, instead of a space, and the sort will still work. In this case, Word uses the term field instead of word (in step 3).

About Susan Harkins

Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

Editor's Picks

Free Newsletters, In your Inbox