Microsoft Office Tips for Word and Excel

Advanced Microsoft Excel – How to Use Sort and Filter

What are Sort and Filter?

Sorting and filtering are two entirely different concepts – almost opposite. But both allow you to look at your spreadsheet in different ways. Sorting allows you to see all your information a specific way. For example, the spreadsheet below is sorted by title:

Excel Spreadsheet with columns including Director Name, Date, Title, Edition, and Number of Discs

Films by Title Order

How to Sort

However, to sort by date, use Excel’s Sort and Filter Feature In-line image of Sort & Filter Button in Excel.

  1. Click on “Sort and Filter”.
  2. In the Sort and Filter Context Menu, click on “Custom Sort” – this will give you the most options.
  3. In the “Sort By” field, click on the down arrow to see the options for sorting.
  4. Sort Tool with Column - Sort by circled in red and blue arrow pointing to the down arrow

  5. Once clicked, a list will appear of the column headings of the spreadsheet.
  6. Sorting_menu_coices-showing

  7. Choose the item for sorting, for example, rather than sorting by title – sort by date.
  8. Sorting menu in excel showing "date" as the sort value

  9. Click OK to confirm the choice.

Excel will now re-organize the spreadsheet to display by the chosen field.

Excel spreadsheet of films by date order

This is simply a reorganization of data. Everything that was there when the list was displayed in Title order is still there, but displayed by Date.

How to Perform a Multi-Level Sort

Excel also allows multi-level sorts, which can be quite powerful if you understand what is going on. In a multi-level sort, think of each additional level as “and then by”. To start, I’ve reorganized my spreadsheet by Director Name – just so it is in a neutral list to start.

Film spreadsheet sorted by director name

Now, let’s create a list by Date, then alphabetical by Title.

  1. First, click on “Sort and Filter”, then “Custom Sort”.
  2. Change “Director Name” to Date. For your own spreadsheet, pick any column to sort by.
  3. Now click “add a level”, to add the next level of sorting. Remember, Excel will sort first by the first thing chosen, and then by the next level.
  4. Add Level button circled in Sort Tool

  5. Another Sort By line will pop-up, as before click the down arrow to choose the column to sort by.
  6. Excel Sorting Tool showing two levels - Date, Then Title

  7. Click “OK”.

The result is a list sorted by Date first and then by Title.

Film list sample by date then title

It’s important to consider how you want to view data, especially with multi-level sorts. This sort list the Date first, so you need several items with the same date, before the second level goes in to affect – the title. So, for example, if you had a product list and every product had a unique ID number, sorting by “Product ID” and then “Product Name” wouldn’t be terribly useful – since Product ID was unique – you’d simply have a list by Product ID. If you reversed that idea, and listed by Product Name then Product ID, the results would depend on the products you have – if there are several of the same product but by different companies, thus having different IDs, a list by Product ID and then by Product Name might be useful. (For example, if you had a high-end grocery and sold different types of cola and each had it’s own unique Product ID.)

Excel will allow up to three levels of sorting, but remember that you want both repeated information and unique information for the sort to be meaningful. An example of a good three-level sort, might be if you had a list of all your musical CDs. You could sort by (1) Genre or Type of Music and then by (2) Artist – the band or singer, and (3) then by album title. Since you are likely to have several types of genres in your music collection, many artists, but each album has a unique title, and in the cases where titles might be the same, the artist is probably different. Such a three-level sort should work.

How to Filter

Filtering is almost the opposite of sorting. Whereas with sorting you see all information presented in different order – with filtering you are looking to “pull out” only certain types of information.

This sample excerpt spreadsheet of films in my DVD collection includes the genre of the film.

Sample film list genre included

To turn on filtering, click the sort and filter button on the ribbon, then click filter.

Sort and Filter - Filter circled on context menu

Once filter is turned on you will see little arrows next to each column.

Excel with filtering turned on

Click an arrow, such as the one next to “genre” in this example, and a “pick list” will appear showing all the categories in that column.

Excel filter by Genre, Everything Selected

By default, every unique value is listed. To apply a filter, uncheck all but the information you want to see.

Excel filtering with only "Musical" selected

Then click “OK”.

Filtered list of musicals

As you can see, rather than listing all films, the list is now limited to only musicals. You can tell the list is filtered because (a) the row counter on the far left now shows skips in the number sequence, indicating lines not shown, and (b) the filter symbol shows on the “Genre” column header.

In order to see the whole list again, go back to the filter symbol, click the arrow and choose “Select All”.

Select all - check marks appear next to each value

To turn off filtering entirely, go back to the sort and filter button, “filter” will be highlighted, click to turn it off.

Filtering is best used to view only a certain class of information.

Also, if you have a Yes/No column in your spreadsheet, you can filter to only show “yes” or only show “no”. You can even filter to only show blanks or to not show blank lines, by adding and removing check marks in the filter list.

Filtering: Yes, No, Blanks Sample

“Yes/No” filtering can be very powerful, and I use it at work all the time.

In this article, I’ve shown how to use sorting and filtering in Excel. Sorting and filtering are very useful and powerful tools for viewing the data in a spreadsheet. Mastering them will help you to get more out of your spreadsheet data.

How to Create and Use Styles in Microsoft Word 2010

What are styles? Styles are a way to apply formatting to paragraphs in Microsoft Word with a single click. More importantly, by formatting your documents using styles – the documents will be consistent throughout. Consistency always looks more professional.

I’ve used styles in Word, since the XP version, but this tutorial will focus on how to create and use styles in Microsoft Office 2010 (the same techniques should work for Microsoft Office 360 or Cloud).

The first step in creating a new style is to click on the new style icon. If you don’t see a styles list or styles icon, follow the instructions in This Post to add the Styles Icon to your Quick Access toolbar. If you have trouble with this step feel free to ask politely worded questions in the Comments.

To create a new style click the Styles Icon:


At the bottom of the Styles list click the new style icon (highlighted below):

New Style

Clicking the new style icon will bring up the New Style Dialogue Box. On this first screen name your style. Use a descriptive but short name that describes what the style is for. Here I’ve named the style “Article Text”.


You can also highlight a style that’s already in the Style List, and click the Modify Style icon (the two capital letter As with the pencil).  If you modify an existing style, that style name will appear in the “Style based on” space, as seen above.

Next, modify the style to what you need.  First, modify the paragraph options by clicking “Format”, then “Paragraph”.  This will bring up the Paragraph Style Dialogue Box.


Here you can set paragraph alignment, the line spacing, space after the paragraph, and even the first line indent. By setting space after at 6 pt (point) Word will automatically insert a blank line at the end of every paragraph that uses the style. It is no longer necessary to press return twice at the end of the paragraph to insert a blank line. This also avoids awkward extra spaces, such at page or column breaks. The Special box (set at “first line”, .5 above) means that each paragraph will have a five space indent at the beginning.

These options can be changed as needed. For example, in an academic paper it’s customary to set off a long quote by not only leaving lines before and after it, but indenting the quote on both the right and left, with justified text, like this:


Which is accomplished with the following Paragraph Settings:

Paragraph Quote

Plus setting the alignment as “Justify” and updating the font to “Bold”.

Which brings me to the next section for a Style:  Font. Microsoft Word includes a large number of fonts, as well as Italic, Bold, and Underline options. You are probably used to using the bold option to emphasize a word in a document, or using the Italic option for titles of other works such as books or films. But you can also specify the font and it’s options using the Font Dialogue Box while creating a style.


While this might not seem remarkable for body text, where you probably aren’t going to want to use any special options other than picking your body font and size, however it’s extremely useful when designing styles for headings, subheadings, and special formats such as captions, footnotes, long quotes, etc.

Here you can also see the advantage of using styles – you can simply type your paper, and set the normal paragraphs with the “Article Text” style (or whatever you’ve named the style) and to update a quote you simply highlight it and click the “Long Quote” style in the Style list. Headings and subheadings styles can be created and applied just as easily. If you have several heading and subheading styles, they will be consistent if you use Styles for formatting. It’s also possible to choose your style, then type what you need, and it will be formatted according to the style.

Try creating and using styles in Word.  They save time because it’s no longer necessary to format every paragraph separately. Styles will make your formatting consistent.  For example, in the Long Quote Style above the indents are set at .7.  If you didn’t use a style, and you formatted the long quotes as you went, in a 30 or 40 page paper, you might have some quotes indented at .5, some at .7 and some at 1.0.  But if you use the Long Quote Style for each quote – they will all be exactly the same.  And if you need to change or update the formatting, all you need do is modify the style – and the change will occur throughout your document (as long as “Automatically Update” is checked.)

How to Move and Customize the Quick Access Toolbar in Microsoft Word 2010

If you were dismayed to discover that in Microsoft Office 2010 all the menus you’d memorized were gone, you are not alone.  And if you also miss having the ability to add custom buttons to your toolbar, I understand and feel your pain.  But, all is not lost.  This post will show you how to build a Quick Access Toolbar in Microsoft Word 2010.  The same techniques work in Microsoft Excel, and can even be used to put buried options easily within reach in Microsoft Access.  But let’s start with Microsoft Word.

The first thing you need to do is open Word and go to the File Ribbon (Click the File tab).  You do not need to have a document open to do this.  Go to Options and choose Quick Access Toolbar.


The first thing you’ll want to do, is override the default placement of the Quick Access Toolbar above the Ribbon.  Leaving the toolbar there makes it difficult to see (it almost hides) and difficult to get to (the Ribbon is in the way).  Unless you intend to hide the ribbon entirely, simply click “Show the Quick Access Toolbar below the Ribbon”.  A checkmark will appear next to the statement.  Click “OK” to save (to apply the change).


Move Quick access Toolbar Below Ribbon

Next, after again going to File → Options → Quick Access Toolbar to re-open the dialogue, in the Choose Commands From section,  use the pull-down menu to select, All Commands.  This will give you a very long alphabetical list of all Word commands.  The list is long, but it’s the easiest way to find the commands you want to place on your toolbar.

Choose All Commands

Next, decide what commands you want on your toolbar.  I suggest commands that not only you use frequently but that are buried in obscure places – making them difficult to get to.  I’ll talk more about commands you might want to add, later.  The illustration below shows how to add the Insert Hyperlink Command.  Simply click the command in the command list on the left, click ADD, then click OK.  Several commands can be added, to build your custom Quick Access Toolbar.  The up and down arrows actually control where the commands are on the toolbar from left to right.  So, in the illustration below, Open is to the left, followed by Save, followed by Save As, and so on to the right.  When done, click OK to save all your changes.

Adding Insert Hyperlink


And there you have it – a custom toolbar, containing your most used commands, and/or commands that can be difficult to find or get to in Word 2010.  Here is an example of how the Quick Access Toolbar looks (highlighted in yellow – additional commands can be reached by click the arrows circles in red).



Items that it can be handy to include:

  • Save As – The new Word really buries this one.  If, like me, you often re-name files right in Word, so you can keep a previous version intact – this is a must-have.  I always had a custom button for it in older versions of Word.
  • Insert Symbol – Why going poking around the insert page, trying to find this?  Especially when you need it in the middle of document to correctly spell a name that uses accent marks of some sort?  The Omega Sign is used for the Insert Symbol button – and besides letters with accent marks, it allows using the degree symbol (as in degrees Fahrenheit), copyright, registered trademark, and trademark symbols, arrows – to delineate steps or directions, etc.
  • Table shortcuts – I often work with tables, and I actually got used to using the shortcut buttons in Excel.  When I began to need to update and edit tables in Word I found having the shortcuts accessible helped tremendously.  I realize it may be hard to see, but the ones on the toolbar allow the insertion and deletion of rows and columns.

However, the point is to add to the Quick Access Toolbar commands you use constantly.  And secondly, to add useful commands that are difficult to locate on the ribbons or that are buried in second and third level dialogues.