Fine-Filtering: Sorting Using Fields within a Table, Paragraph or List in Word 2010

Sorting the contents of a table column unlocks all sorts of sorting options. In this post, we’ll explain how to use fields to sort different content in Microsoft Office 2010.

In order to get into the data inside a table, paragraph or list, you must first separate it into manageable chunks we call FIELDS.

What exactly is a field?

A field is a smaller unit than a paragraph, table cell, or list item. It’s up to you how to define them. You can choose to separate data using TABS, COMMAS, or OTHER characters. For example, a cell could contain both last and first names with commas to separate the names.

Sorting based on fields follows these general steps:

  1. Select the text area, list or table you would like to sort, then choose HOME or TABLE TOOLS/LAYOUT then SORT .
  2. [Click] OPTIONS.
  3. Under SEPARATE FIELDS AT, choose between TABS, COMMAS, or OTHER for a custom character to mark where a new field begins.

    The OTHER option allows you to enter characters such as dashes, slashes, and other symbols, and even spaces, which allows you to sort by individual words. Word recognizes when you’re searching for words, and will show WORD 1, WORD 2, and so on instead of FIELD in your SORT BY choices. If, for whatever reason, you need to sort a paragraph by the 42nd word, you can easily choose WORD 42 as your SORT BY option.
  4. In the USING list, select the field with which you want to SORT. For instance, in a table cell where fields are separated by a comma, “Smith, John” has two fields: “Smith” which is FIELD 1 and “John” which is FIELD 2.
  5. Choose your primary SORT BY search criteria, and add additional THEN BY criteria by which to sort. Depending on what you’re sorting and which fields are setup, your SORT BY options could include COLUMN, PARAGRAPH, FIELD or WORD.
  6. [Click] OK.

Sorting a Paragraph or List Using Fields

To determine the order of a series of paragraphs or a list, you can select fields of values within them, instead of starting sorting at the beginning of each paragraph or list item. Once you’ve chosen how to define fields, choose a FIELD or WORD in the SORT BY dropdown.

You also still have the option of choosing the TYPE, whether TEXT, NUMBER or DATE. This can be helpful if you want to organize a list based on a date or number that’s found in the same place in each list item.

Sorting a Table Using Fields

Sorting fields in tables is a little more complicated since you have to SORT BY a column, which will follow the name of your HEADER ROW if you have one (and have selected it under MY LIST HAS). Otherwise, the columns will be known as COLUMN 1, COLUMN 2, and so on.

Just as when sorting paragraphs and lists, you can find specific fields, but they will be limited to the column or header you specify under SORT BY. The criteria for what defines a field will be the same for each column.

It may be easier to think of a column as though it were a list of items, and you can decide the fields within the list by which to sort, and whether to sort by TEXT, NUMBER or DATE.

We think these SORT options offer some great possibilities for ordering paragraphs, lists, and tables. Please let us know how you’ve used the SORT function in the comments!

For more information and quick tips on using the Microsoft Office Suite, check out our Microsoft Office 2010 Quick Reference Cards.