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Sorting text in Word: 3 tips and some secret tricks

JD Sartain | Feb. 13, 2015
Basic sorting in Word 2013 is a breeze: Essentially, it's just select a list of text, click the Sort button, and then choose Ascending or Descending order. However, it gets a bit more complex when sorting multiple columns or tables. There are a few tricks and relatively unknown techniques that can save you time and make this task easier.

Secret trick: Try this: Position your cursor in the top, right margin (outside the table) and, when the black arrow appears, click once. Word displays a column of small gray boxes (intended for the addition of a new column). Now click Layout > Sort > Options > Sort Options and check the Sort Column Only box. Click OK, then OK again. Nothing changes (or so it seems), but the Sort Column Only box is now checked, which is necessary to proceed.

And now, it works. Click the column you want sorted — in this case, the center column (as explained above) — then just click Sort > OK. This step sorts the center column alphabetically in ascending order and does not rearrange the data in the rest of the table.

Trick: Imagine that after you've sorted the table, you decide to put your home state of California first on the list. Rather than manually adjusting the data, you can quickly move any row up or down with a simple shortcut. Position your cursor on the California row. Press Shift+ Alt+ Up-arrow continuously until California is moved to the first row (or Shift+ Alt+ Down-arrow to move the row down).

Note: The Sort Column Only box remains checked until you exit Word, then it reverts back to the default of "unchecked." So you must repeat these last two steps to sort a single column inside a table of multiple columns each time you access Word.


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