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Sorting by Custom Lists in Excel 2013

written by: •edited by: Tricia Goss•updated: 12/3/2015

Excel 2013 supports multi-tiered sorting rules to arrange data as you prefer, but the default sorting rules only provide alphabetical or reverse-alphabetical ordering. A convenient workaround is to specify sort order using custom lists that give you exact control over the sort order.

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    As an example, say you want to sort a list of products based on measured effectiveness. The problem is the effectiveness is described as Low, Medium or High. Sorting using conventional options results in the illogical order High-Low-Medium or Medium-Low-High. By configuring a custom list for sorting, you instruct Excel to use the order you designate.

    Highlight the data you want sorted.

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

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    Note that if you didn’t select all contiguous data, Excel will prompt you to optionally expand the selection.

    3. Click the Sort by drop-down menu and choose the column containing the values you want sorted with a custom list.

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    4. Click the Order drop-down menu and select Custom List.

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    5. Click NEW LIST, enter the list of terms using the order you prefer (separated with a return between each word) and then click Add. Alternatively, simply click an existing list.

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    6. With the new list automatically selected, click OK.

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    7. Click OK again to apply the sort.

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    The data is then more logically sorted based on your custom list:

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