Alphabetize lines of text + sort numerical data in Word 2010

In some cases, you will want to make portions of your documents appear sorted alphabetically, numerically, in ascending or descending order. Word 2010 includes a special feature that allows you to do that without having to manually reorder lines of text, as you'll learn in this tutorial. We will illustrate the data sorting capabilities included in Microsoft Word with two of the most common cases: sorting rows in a table, and alphabetizing a bulleted list of items. We'll also cover the special case of sorting lines of text, which has an unexpected behavior if you don't know what to expect.


Alphabetically sorting table rows

Re-arranging rows in a table is the most common and most intuitive data sorting mechanism, since Word understands right away what you want to do (you'll note the contrast once we start talking about sorting other types of text elements, like lists or even entire paragraphs). First, create a table in your document, with two columns and at least three to five rows, and leave the cursor inside one of its cells (making it the current text object). Then, click on the "Sort" button in the "Home" tab of the ribbon:
Click to sort data in Word 2010 As soon as you do, Microsoft Word will automatically select the entire table (understanding that it is what you want to sort, without having to manually select a range of data), and the "Sort" dialog will open.

Unlike regular text, a table is "structured" data, which includes additional options:
Alphabetically sort table cells in Microsoft Word documents

Tip: as mentioned above, Word 2010 will automatically assume that you want to sort the entire table. To only sort a few rows, select them manually and then click on the "Sort" button: Word will respect your selection and only work on it.

Sort by multiple criteria

In most cases, sorting by a single field will meet your needs; if, however, you need to create nested sorts, just pick a value in the "Sort By" dropdown menu on the left (this is automatically done for you with tables), and this will "unlock" the next sort field. Word 2010 allows you to sort up to three criteria.

Sorting paragraphs or lists

When it comes to sorting unstructured text, like paragraphs or bulleted/numbered lists, you will need to manually select the range of data you want to sort, otherwise Word 2010 will attempt to sort the entire document, rarely what you'd want or expect. (Tip: hit Ctrl+Z or click on the "Undo" button to cancel a sorting operation).

Select the part of your document you want sorted, and click on the "Sort" button; after optionally configuring sort order, data type instructions, and sub-sorting criteria, click on the "OK" button and Word 2010 will modify the text selection (or entire document). Unlike tables, lists need to be manually selected, whether you select all items for sorting, or a subset of them.

Tip: to sort lines of text, you need to type each of them as an individual paragraph; in other words, separated with a regular hit on the Enter key. If each line is separated with a soft return (Shift+Enter), Word 2010 will not  consider each line as an entity of its own, and simply see a multi-line paragraph!

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