Google Sheets Sort by Multiple Columns: Mastering Complex Data Organization

Published: January 25, 2024 - 4 min read

Julian Alvarado

Sorting data in Google Sheets is essential, especially when handling complex datasets. This guide makes it easy to learn how to sort by multiple columns. 

Discover how to bring clarity and insight to your data, transforming tables into organized, actionable information.

Setting Up Your Google Sheets for Sorting

Before sorting your data in Google Sheets, it’s important to set up the spreadsheet correctly. The user needs to identify the sort range and prepare the dataset, ensuring that the sort function works as intended.

Understanding the Sort Range Option

The Sort Range option is a feature in Google Sheets that allows the user to define a specific area of the spreadsheet to be organized according to certain criteria. The sorting can be done on multiple columns, which will first consider the primary column, followed by subsequent columns. To activate this, one would navigate to Data > Sort range. If there’s a header row in the dataset, it’s crucial to mark it accordingly so that Google Sheets recognizes and preserves the headers during the sort operation.

Preparing Your Data for Sorting

Before applying the sort function, one should prepare their original data to prevent any data misalignment. The following list outlines the key steps:

  1. Ensure Data Integrity: Check for blank cells or disparate data types within the columns to be sorted.
  2. Highlight Headers: If the data includes headers, use the ‘Data has header row’ option to maintain them at the top.
  3. Consistent Formatting: Apply consistent data formatting—such as dates or currency—so the sort interprets them correctly.

When the data is properly organized, sorting will yield the most accurate and useful results.

Using Sort Function Syntax

Sorting can also be achieved through the sort function syntax in Google Sheets, allowing for dynamic sorting that updates automatically as data changes. To use the sort function, one inputs a formula that includes the range to be sorted and the index of the column used as the sort key. Additionally, a boolean value indicating ascending (TRUE) or descending (FALSE) order is required.

An example of the sort function syntax is: =SORT(A2:B9, 1, TRUE)

In this case, A2:B9 represents the dataset, 1 refers to the first column in the range as the primary key for sorting, and TRUE denotes sorting in ascending order. This formula will generate a sorted range within the sheet.

Executing Multi-Column Sorts

Effective data organization in Google Sheets often requires sorting by multiple criteria. This ensures that data is displayed in the most insightful way, whether it’s numerically, alphabetically, by date, or even by color.

spreadsheet ai
Free AI-Powered Tools Right Within Your Spreadsheet

Supercharge your spreadsheets with GPT-powered AI tools for building formulas, charts, pivots, SQL and more. Simple prompts for automatic generation.

Sorting by Multiple Columns Step-by-Step

To sort by multiple columns in Google Sheets, one must initiate the process from the Data tab. Users can follow these steps:

  1. Select the range to sort.
  2. Click the Data tab and choose Sort range.
  3. If the data includes a header row, check the Data has header row option.
  4. Set the primary column to sort by (sort_column1) and choose ascending (true for is_ascending) or descending order (false for is_ascending).
  5. Click on Add another sort column to include additional criteria (sort_column2, is_ascending2, etc.).

Advanced Range Sorting Options

The Sort range dialogue box provides a variety of ways to define sorting conditions. Users can sort alphabetically or numerically, and there’s even the capability to sort by color within Google Sheets, although this often requires using additional sorting functions or scripts.

Sorting with Custom Formulas and Conditions

For more complex sorting, custom formulas can be used:

  • The SORT function allows users to add multiple sorting conditions directly in a formula, such as =SORT(range, sort_column1, is_ascending1, [sort_column2], [is_ascending2], …).
  • Sorting can be tailored to specific conditions such as sort by date in Google Sheets, by setting the respective column type to date and defining the order.
  • When sorting with custom formulas, users have the flexibility to define complex conditions that go beyond basic sorting capabilities.

Conclusion

Mastering multi-column sorting in Google Sheets enhances your data analysis. It turns complex data into clear, actionable insights. 

Ready to take your Google Sheets skills to the next level? Install Coefficient for even more powerful data management. Get started here.

Set Spreadsheet Data on Refresh

Try the Spreadsheet Automation Tool Over 300,000 Professionals are Raving About

Tired of spending endless hours manually pushing and pulling data into Google Sheets? Say goodbye to repetitive tasks and hello to efficiency with Coefficient, the leading spreadsheet automation tool trusted by over 300,000 professionals worldwide.

Sync data from your CRM, database, ads platforms, and more into Google Sheets in just a few clicks. Set it on a refresh schedule. And, use AI to write formulas and SQL, or build charts and pivots.

Julian Alvarado Content Marketing
Julian is a dynamic B2B marketer with 8+ years of experience creating full-funnel marketing journeys, leveraging an analytical background in biological sciences to examine customer needs.
Google icon
300,000+ users on Google Marketplace
Wait, there's more!
Connect any system to Google Sheets in just seconds.
Get Started Free

Trusted By Over 20,000 Companies