Other Word sorting problems, tricks and workarounds

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Here’s some other problems with the Word Sort feature and tricks to work around them.

Generally speaking, long or complex sorting is better done in Excel.  Excel has much better data management features to split and sort. The final result can be copied into Word.

Sort a list of names by surname or more in Word

Limitations of Word Sort feature for name sorting

Automatic sorting of PivotTables in Excel

Not Dynamic

Word’s Sorting is not dynamic. If you change a list after sorting, Word will not automatically resort the list.

That’s a good thing.  In many cases, you’ll use Word to sort a list into roughly the correct order then manually tweak it (e.g. fixing name anomalies).

Add hidden text

A commonly written sorting trick is adding hidden text before the visible word.  What’s not mentioned as much is the trap.

Hidden text is only sorted when visible (i.e. with Show All set on or the Hidden attribute turned off).

Here’s a list of months (in German, just for a change) sorted.

Add hidden text to the start of each line (e.g.  1Januar  2Februar etc) then resort.  Home | Paragraph | Show All is the easiest way to reveal hidden text for sorting.

Here’s another example, some of the Bard’s plays in alphabetical order:

Showing the hidden text explains how Word’s Sort has worked.  Some lines have hidden text to ignore prefixes like ‘The’ or, in one case, honor a theatrical tradition <g>.

(we changed formatting of the hidden text to make it more obvious. The font/color makes no difference to the sorting).

Hide a column

As we’ve mentioned before, it’s possible to hide a column in a Word table.

A hidden column can be used to sort the table, just like any other column.

Custom Sort orders

Word is limited to ascending/descending sorts for text, numbers or dates.

Custom sort orders (like days of the week or months of the year) aren’t directly possible. Custom sorting is a job for Excel. But custom sorts can be faked in Word using a hidden column.

Here’s the days of the week in alphabetical order:

To sort them in standard day order add a column of numbers then sort by the numbered column.

The extra column must be visible for sorting. We’ve turned on ‘Show All’ to expose the hidden text header and therefore allow Sort to work.

Then hide the extra column


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