# How to sort list-style numbers in Excel?

I have a column of "numbers" in Excel that I would like to sort as follows:

``````1.1
1.2
1.2.1
1.2.6
1.2.9
1.2.10
1.2.11
1.3
``````

However, regardless if the cell's type is number or text, Excel sorts them as follows:

``````1.1
1.2
1.2.1
1.2.10
1.2.11
1.2.6
1.2.9
1.3
``````

This could also be called "Natural sorting" -- in a programming language like PHP this would be accomplished by the `natsort` function. But I cannot seem to find a way to sort in this manner inside Excel.

To help further provide some context: These numbers represent sections and sub-sections -- not decimals, but rather as list items:

``````1. Section
1. Sub-section
2. Sub-section
1.  Item
6.  Item
9.  Item
10. Item
11. Item
3. Sub-section
``````

You can make a table to split the values:

For each column, use the headings (row 1) and formulas (row 2+):

``````A1: text    A2: (your section numbers)
B1: dot1    B2: =FIND(".",A2,1)
C1: dot2    C2: =IFERROR(FIND(".",A2,B2+1),LEN(A2)+1)
D1: num1    D2: =VALUE(MID(A2,1,B2-1))
E1: num2    E2: =IFERROR(VALUE(MID(A2,B2+1,C2-B2-1)),0)
F1: num3    F2: =IFERROR(VALUE(MID(A2,C2+1,LEN(A2)-C2)),0)
``````

This appears as:

``````      A      B      C      D      E      F

1   text   dot1   dot2   num1   num2   num3
2   1.1       2      4      1      1      0
3   1.1.3     2      4      1      1      3
4   2.10.7    2      5      2     10      7
``````

Then you can do a custom sort by columns num1, num2 and num3.

I have had good results by inserting a User Defined Function. The UDF returns a value that represents the total of the section number in millions, the subsection number in thousands, the item number in units, the subitem (if any) in thousandths, sub-sub items in millionths, and so on. For example,

`1.2.3` would return `1,002,003` while

`1.51.5.5` returns `1,051,005.005` - and these numbers can then be used for sorting.

I find this to be less cumbersome than using in-worksheet string functions, or sorting on multiple columns.

The UDF is as follows:

``````Function LList(stInVal As String) As Double

Dim iPower          As Integer
Dim vSplit          As Variant
Dim i               As Long

iPower = 6

vSplit = Split(stInVal, ".", -1)

For i = 0 To UBound(vSplit)
LList = LList + CInt(vSplit(i)) * 10 ^ (iPower - 3 * i)
Next i

End Function
``````

Doug explains this in detail. I hope it makes sense!

http://youtu.be/74WdfqAB8mY

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– slm
Commented Mar 6, 2013 at 17:51

If you want to avoid complex formulas and trying to craft a solution that can handle n levels of indentation, you can do a little text editing to break apart the number components for a multi column sort solution.

There may even be a way to do this right in Excel, but I like text editors because I can accomplish what I want quickly.

1. Copy the column contents that contains your multi-level list values
2. Paste into text editor with decent replace functionality - personally, I love notepad++
3. Replace level delimiter "." with tabs "\t"
4. Select all (CTRL+A) and copy (CTRL+C)
5. Click in a column to the right of your data in Excel and paste (CTRL+V)
6. Select all the cells you just pasted and use Replace in Excel, replace blank cells with 0

You will have data in n columns for each number component, now you can sort on those columns.

Just faced the same issue...

if you want a quick solution (and are not fussed about the use of the "." then simply find all "." and replace with "_" - this will allow excel to sort in a hierarchy fashion.

the sort will almost work.. now all you need to do is add a trailing "underscore" to your data... so data with one character "1" becomes "1_" (to the number of characters in your data)