Creating a Sort Order

There are times when a normal sorting order just doesn’t cut it. Instead, you need a special sorting order that fits the type of data you are working with. In the previous tip you learned that you can instruct Excel to sort by a special sorting order, such as days of the week. You can also easily create your own sorting orders.

For instance, let’s assume you have a field that can contain the name of one of four colors-Black, Red, Green, and Orange-and that you wanted your list sorted in that order. The problem is, Excel would normally sort this list alphabetically-Black, Green, Orange, and Red. The solution is to create a custom list that has the color names in the order you desire.

To create a custom list, follow these steps:

  1. Display the Excel Options dialog box. (In Excel 2007 click the Office button and then click Excel Options. In Excel 2010 and Excel2013 display the File tab of the ribbon and then click Options.)
  2. If you are using Excel 2007, make sure Popular is selected at the left of the dialog box. If you are using a later version of Excel, click Advanced at the left side of the dialog box and scroll down to the General section.
  3. Click Edit Custom Lists. Excel displays the Custom Lists dialog box and hides the Excel Options dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  4. Figure 1. The Custom Lists dialog box.

  5. Select the NEW LIST option from the Custom Lists list at the left of the dialog box.
  6. In the List Entries portion of the dialog box, start typing the order in which you want the elements sorted.
  7. When you are done, click the Add button.
  8. Repeat steps 4 through 6 to define any other lists desired.
  9. Click OK to finish.

In step 5 you need to enter information in the List Entries area of the dialog box. For this example you would type the following:

Black
Red
Green
Orange

Make sure you press Enter at the end of each element and that what you type matches exactly the possible contents of the sorting field. Once your lists are defined, you can use them to sort as described in other ExcelTips.