What do you mean, Sorting in Word – that’s Excel, surely?

Normally, I’d agree with you – we use Excel for “Number crunching”, working with lists, etc and we use Word for writing articles or letters – or even Blog posts – but occasionally, it can be very useful to take advantage of the ability to do some sorting in Word.

Helping out a friend

Some of the readers of this blog will be aware that, away from the mysteries of Microsoft Office, I’m researching the history of some Allied Prisoners of War in Normandy (if you want the details, please check out www.menintheshed.com). Whilst I was last in Normandy, a friend asked for my advice. He’s in the middle of writing a book & was having a bit of an issue… We’d discussed using Styles for Headings, Themes, Tables of Contents, etc (in fact, he’s subsequently signed up to this newsletter), however, as he explained, it wasn’t the “look & feel” of the document that was his immediate problem, but the fact that the paragraphs in the introduction & first chapter of his book had become mixed up & were now out of order. What could he do?

Cut and Paste or sort?

He showed me a printout of the relevant pages which he’d then marked up to show which paragraphs should be where… it looked a bit like…

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… but it went on for a lot of pages…

If it had been just a short document, I’d have suggested using Cut & Paste or Drag & Drop to select the paragraph in question & then dragging it into position; however, there were far too many pages & paragraphs to make this a sensible suggestion.

So that meant we had to do something unusual… Sorting in Word

Sorting in Word

The first stage was to edit the Word document, so that each paragraph had new start characters – the paragraph number that it should be (rather than what it currently was) with a “#” either side (I’ll explain the “why” of that in a short while…

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The next step is from the HOME Tab to select the AàZ sort option

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You’ll notice that, if I don’t specifically select any text in the document, Word presumes that I want it all & selects it for me as part of the process…

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Then, rather than accepting the default “Text” Option, click the Dropdown arrow & select Number

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When you press OK, the result is a Word document sorted into the order that you want…

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Using Find and Replace to do a final tidy up

It’s then simply a case of removing the numbers that you added to help with the sort… and that’s where the two “#” characters at each side of the numbers come in to play. Your document may well have numbers in it & we’ll want them to stay where they are, however, it’s these additional numbers that we added to specifically sort our document that we now want removing as the “chance” that you will have a meaningful use of #Number Number# is probably quite small. We could go through the document & remove one by one by selecting them & deleting, however, it’s far quicker to use Word’s Find & Replace feature together with a special Wildcard character to do this in one go for us…

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Selecting More>> allows us to tell Word to use Wildcards…

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Selecting Replace All, now removes the #Number Number# sequence from our document

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Next time, we’ll look at some of the other Wildcards that can be used in Find & Replace

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