How to Sort by Date in Excel – A Step-by-Step Guide

how to sort by date in excel

Microsoft Excel is a powerful tool for organising and analysing data. When working with date-related information, it’s essential to know how to sort data by date to gain insights and make informed decisions. In this article, we’ll provide a comprehensive, step-by-step guide on how to sort data by date in Excel, ensuring that you can effectively manage your information.

Open Your Excel Workbook

First, open the Excel workbook containing the data you want to sort by date. If you don’t have a workbook yet, create a new one and input your data.

Select Your Data

Before sorting by date, you must select the data range that contains the date column. Click on a cell within your data, and then, either use your mouse to drag and select the desired range, or press “Ctrl + Shift + Arrow keys” to select a range quickly.

Choose the Date Column

Identify the column with the date information you want to sort. This could be any column in your selected range, and it’s crucial to focus on the date column you want to sort.

Open the Sort Dialog Box

To open the Sort dialog box, you have several options

  • Click on the “Data” tab in the Excel Ribbon.
  • Click on the “Sort & Filter” button in the “Editing” group.
  • Select “Custom Sort” from the dropdown menu.

Define the Sort Criteria

In the Sort dialog box, you’ll need to specify the criteria for sorting. In this case, you want to sort by date, so

1. In the “Sort by” dropdown, select the column containing your date data.

2. In the “Sort On” dropdown, choose “Values.”

3. In the “Order” dropdown, select either “Oldest to Newest” (ascending) or “Newest to Oldest” (descending) based on your preference.

Add Additional Sort Levels (Optional)

If your data has multiple columns, you may want to sort by multiple criteria. For example, you might want to sort by date and then by a secondary column such as customer name. To do this

1. Click the “Add Level” button in the Sort dialog box.

2. Repeat steps 5 for each additional sorting criterion.

3. Use the “Sort On” and “Order” options to specify how each column should be sorted.

Click “OK” to Apply the Sort

Once you’ve defined your sorting criteria, click the “OK” button in the Sort dialog box. Excel will reorganise your data according to your specified criteria.

Review Your Sorted Data

After clicking “OK,” your data will be sorted based on the chosen date column and any additional criteria. Review your data to ensure that it is organised as intended.

Modify Sort Order (Optional)

If you wish to change the sort order or criteria, you can simply repeat the above steps and make the necessary adjustments in the Sort dialog box.

Filter and Analyze

Now that your data is sorted by date, you can easily filter and analyse the information. Excel allows you to apply various filters to focus on specific date ranges, which can be immensely useful for tracking trends, identifying patterns, or making data-driven decisions.

Tips for Sorting by Date in Excel

  • Dates as Text Ensure that Excel recognizes your date values as dates, not text. To do this, check the cell format and make sure it is set to “Date.”
  • Custom Date Formats If your date format doesn’t match Excel’s default date format, you may need to adjust the format in the Format Cells dialog to ensure accurate sorting.
  • Be Consistent When entering dates, maintain a consistent format (e.g., “MM/DD/YYYY” or “DD/MM/YYYY”) to avoid sorting errors.
  • Use Data Validation Implement data validation rules to prevent the entry of incorrect date formats, ensuring data integrity.
  • Custom Sort Lists You can create custom sort lists for specific date-related data, such as months or days of the week.


Why can’t I sort by date in Excel?

If your dates are not sorted as they should, most likely they are entered in a format that Excel cannot understand, therefore they are perceived as text strings rather than dates.

How do I sort by date in sheets?

To set up filters, select the column headers with the data you want to sort. Then click on Data > Create a filter. To sort your column data by date, click on the inverted triangle icon within the cell. Then select Sort A→Z to organise the data under the column from the earliest to the latest date.

In conclusion, Excel’s sorting capabilities are invaluable for managing and analysing data, including date-related information. Sorting data by date is a fundamental skill that can help you uncover insights and trends within your data, leading to better-informed decisions. By following these step-by-step instructions and tips, you’ll be well-equipped to sort your data by date in Excel and harness the full potential of this powerful spreadsheet software.

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