The Excel application icon on a gray background

Sorting and filtering data offers a way to cut through the noise and find (and sort) just the data you want to see. Microsoft Excel has no shortage of options to filter down huge datasets into just what’s needed.

How to Sort Data in an Excel Spreadsheet

In Excel, click inside the cell atop the column you want to sort.

In our example, we’re going to click cell D3 and sort this column by salary.

cel d3

From the “Data” tab on top of the ribbon, click “Filter.”

Atop each column, you’ll now see an arrow. Click the arrow of the column you wish to sort to bring up a menu that enables us to sort or filter the data.

sorting arrow

The first and most obvious way to sort data is from smallest to largest or largest to smallest, assuming you have numerical data.

In this case, we’re sorting salaries, so we’ll sort from smallest to largest by clicking the top option.

sort smallest to largest

We can apply the same sorting to any of the other columns, sorting by the date of hire, for example, by selecting the “Sort Oldest to Newest” option in the same menu.

sort oldest to newest

These sorting options also work for the age and name columns. We can sort by oldest to youngest in age, for example, or arrange employee names alphabetically by clicking the same arrow and choosing the appropriate option.

sort a to z

How to Filter Data in Excel

Click the arrow next to “Salary” to filter this column. In this example, we’re going to filter out anyone who makes more than $100,000 per year.

sorting arrow

Because our list is short, we can do this a couple of ways. The first way, which works great in our example, is just to uncheck each person who makes more than $100,000 and then press “OK.” This will remove three entries from our list and enables us to see (and sort) just those that remain.

uncheck boxes

There’s another way to do this. Let’s click the arrow next to “Salary” once more.

sorting arrow

This time we’ll click “Number Filters” from the filtering menu and then “Less Than.”

number filters less than

Here we can also filter our results, removing anyone who makes over $100,000 per year. But this way works much better for large data sets where you might have to do a lot of manual clicking to remove entries. To the right of the dropdown box that says “is less than,” enter “100,000” (or whatever figure you want to use) and then press “OK.”

100,000 ok

We can use this filter for a number of other reasons, too. For example, we can filter out all salaries that are above average by clicking “Below Average” from the same menu (Number Filters > Below Average).

filter below average

We can also combine filters. Here we’ll find all salaries greater than $60,000, but less than $120,000. First, we’ll select “is greater than” in the first dropdown box.

filter greater than

In the dropdown below the previous one, choose “is less than.”

filter less than

Next to “is greater than” we’ll put in $60,000.

60,000 ok

Next to “is less than” add $120,000.

120,000

Click “OK” to filter the data, leaving only salaries greater than $60,000 and less than $120,000.

press ok

How to Filter Data from Multiple Columns at Once

In this example, we’re going to filter by date hired, and salary. We’ll look specifically for people hired after 2013, and with a salary of less than $70,000 per year.

Click the arrow next to “Salary” to filter out anyone who makes $70,000 or more per year.

sorting arrow

Click “Number Filters” and then “Less Than.”

number filters less than

Add “70,000” next to “is less than” and then press “OK.”

70,000

Next, we’re going to filter by the date each employee was hired, excluding those hired after 2013. To get started, click the arrow next to “Date Hired” and then choose “Date Filters” and then “After.”

date filter after

Type “2013” into the field to the right of “is after” and then press “OK.” This will leave you only with employees who both make less than $70,000 per year who and were hired in 2014 or later.

year 2013 press ok

Excel has a number of powerful filtering options, and each is as customizable as you’d need it to be. With a little imagination, you can filter huge datasets down to only the pieces of information that matter.

Bryan Clark Bryan Clark
Bryan has worked in journalism and publishing for more than 15 years. For the last 10 years, he's covered the technology beat, including gadgets, social media, security, and web culture. Before working as a freelancer, Bryan was the Managing Editor for The Next Web. These days he spends his time at a number of publications, both online and off, including The New York Times, Popular Science, and The Next Web, among others.
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