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Sorting an Excel 2013 Table on Fill or Text Color

written by: •edited by: Tricia Goss•updated: 11/13/2015

Colors are often overlooked as sorting criteria. Learn how to make sorting in Excel even easier using text or fill colors as criteria.

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    Excel 2013’s Sort feature offers a powerful tool to arrange data the way you want it displayed. You probably already know how to sort based on values in a column or row and use multiple criteria for complex sorting, but Excel goes beyond these intuitive methods.

    For example, you might have a color-coordinated system where cells appear blue or green depending on the values therein. Or maybe your accounting method displays negative values in a red font; if you kept the negative sign, sorting based on values isn’t a problem, but if you didn’t, you’ll need color sorting.

    1. Highlight the cells containing the data you want sorted. The color values can be fill colors or font colors and can be in a single column or entire rows; it doesn’t matter.

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    2. Click the Data tab and select Sort in the Sort & Filter group.

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    3. Choose the appropriate column in the first drop-down menu, click Value and then select either Cell Color to sort by fill color or Font Color to sort by text color. In this example, sorting is by fill color. When selected, the options change.

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    4. Click No Cell Color and select the color you wish to appear on top or bottom or leave the selection as is to force cells to sort with no cell color appearing at the top or bottom of the selected data. If you previously chose to sort on font color, “Automatic” appears in place of “No Cell Color.”

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    5. Click On Top and choose if you want the selected color to appear On Top or On Bottom.

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    Note: You can add addition levels to specify where each color appears. Although the order is always “on top” or “on bottom,” sorting begins on the first criteria, then the second, and so force. So for example, listing five colors, each “on top” sorts them by the first color configured, then the second, etc.


    6. Click OK to sort the data.

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    The result of the example would therefore be:

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