How to Organize Data in a Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet

Let’s face it: No matter what professional industry you work in, you’ve likely seen job postings with “must be proficient in Microsoft Excel”. The reason behind this? Microsoft Excel works as a multitool, a hammer for many businesses’ nails, sometimes to their detriment.

It’s a commonly-used tool with many applications for data entry and storage. As such, it can be a helpful tool for many businesses, but only when the data contained within it is well-organized. How can you organize the data in an Excel spreadsheet? Here’s what you need to know.

Sorting an Excel Spreadsheet Alphabetically

Let’s say that you have a database full of customers, and you want to ensure that they’re listed in either alphabetical order. This is a fairly simple step that should be done early on.

First, you should select the column (or cells within a column) with your clients’ names. Next, click on the Data tab, followed by Sort and Filter. A group pop-up should appear with choices between Sort Z to A (descending order) and Sort A to Z (ascending order). Select the one best suited for your needs.

Just make sure before you begin that all the data got stored as text and that all leading spaces got removed. If you need to format the selected data, just hit Ctrl+1. This will launch the dialog box to Format Cells, from which you select the Number tab, General Number, and Text. This will format all the selected data as text, making it easier to sort.

Sorting Data by Numbers

Sorting data for your Excel budget spreadsheet by numbers is by far the easiest process of the lot. All you need to do is select the cell, cells, rows, or columns, and enter the Sort and Filter dialog under the Data tab. From there, you only need to select Sort Smallest to Largest if you need to sort data from low to high. Or, if you need the reverse, select Sort Largest to Smallest.

As with sorting information alphabetically, make sure your information is stored in the correct format before you begin. In this case, that the data is stored as a number since negative numbers and anything with leading apostrophes can get misread by the system otherwise.

Sorting Data by Dates

Sorting information by date and time is a tricky beast and one for which many turn to Excel spreadsheet templates rather than risk doing it on their own. However, you can do it yourself by following much the same steps as above. Select your cells, enter the Data tab, and select Sort and Filter. Once there, if you want to sort the dates from earliest to latest, you’ll select Sort Oldest to Newest. If you need your data from the most recent date to the oldest, then select Sort Newest to Oldest.

When sorting data by date, there’s greater potential for things to go wrong. Your dates and times must be stored in the system as dates and times, which requires specific formatting in Microsoft Excel. For more information on how to do this properly, check out this guide.

Sorting by Multiple Columns

Let’s say that you need to sort your data for employees in your organization by the department and then employee. To do that, you’ll need to select any cell in your desired data range. Once you’ve done that, enter the Data tab and Sort and Filter, clicking Sort as usual.

Once you have the Sort dialog box open, in the Sort By box under Column, you’ll need to select the first column you need to sort. Once you’ve done that, look under Sort On and select to sort by either ValuesCell ColorCell Icon, or Font Color. Afterward, under Order, select how you want to sort the data.

Then, to add the next column you need to sort, click on Add Level, then repeat the above process. You can copy or delete columns by selecting Copy Level or Delete Level. If you need to adjust the order in which the columns get sorted, you can select an entry and click either the Down or Up arrow next to the Options button.

The higher the entry is in the list, the sooner it will get sorted.

How Macros and Add-Ins Add to Functionality

Let’s face it: Getting an Excel spreadsheet to do exactly what you want it to do is a tricky process. That’s part of the reason why premade templates and Excel spreadsheet formulas are so popular. However, for particularly complex processes, you might need to add third-party macros or add-ins to get the job done.

Excel macros essentially combine a bunch of functions into one, allowing for faster sorting, filtering, and searching of your spreadsheets. Add-ins can have similar functionality, or link with external data, removing the need for you to input it manually. You can see here one such tool.

How an Excel Spreadsheet Is Useful to Businesses

Excel spreadsheets are considered the lifeblood of many businesses due to their sheer utility. You can sort customer names, phone numbers, past purchases, and many other pieces of information in one program, rather than having to dig through several. This makes budgeting, following up on sales leads, and tracking purchase history a breeze. Excel is also a far cheaper option on its own than many more specialized programs, making it the perfect choice for smaller or leaner operations.

All of these elements combine to explain why Excel continues to serve as the backbone of many businesses, despite a host of more specialized software now existing.

Looking for More Tips About How to Use an Excel Spreadsheet?

Figuring out how to use and organize an Excel spreadsheet for your work can be a difficult process. The above tips can scarcely scratch the surface of how deep this program’s functions can run. If you need further help figuring out how to enter, sort, and filter your data, then why not check out our blog? We update each day with more helpful and informative business articles like this one.

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