Got a version of Excel that uses the menu interface (Excel 97, Excel 2000, Excel 2002, or Excel 2003)? This site is for you! If you use a later version of Excel, visit our ExcelTips site focusing on the ribbon interface.
With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company.
Learn more about Allen...
Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Excel 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Excel, click here: Sorting Data Containing Merged Cells.
Excel has long included the ability to merge adjacent cells into a larger, single cell. This ability has been used by many worksheet designers to give their worksheets a polished, professional look.
There is a huge drawback to using merged cells, however: You can't sort tables that include them. If you try, you'll get a message that says "The operation requires the merged cells to be identically sized."
The most obvious solution to the problem is to not use merged cells. Let's say, for instance, that you have a worksheet in which each "record" actually consists of two rows, and that the first column of the worksheet contains merged cells. (Each two-row record starts with two merged cells spanning the two rows. This merged cell contains a project name.)
It is better to unmerge the cells in the first column, but then you may wonder how to make the records sort properly in the worksheet; how to keep the row pairs together during a sort. You can do this by putting your project name in the first row and the project name appended with "zz" in the second row. For instance, if the first row contains "Wilburn Chemical" (the project name), then the second row could contain "Wilburn Chemicalzz". Format the second row's cell so the name doesn't show up (such as white text on a white background), and you can then successfully sort as you want to.
Another solution is to use a macro to juggle your worksheet and get the sorting done. Assuming that the merged cells are in column A (as previously described), you can use the following macro to sort the data by the contents of column A:
Sub SortList() Dim sAddStart As String Dim rng As Range Dim rng2 As Range Dim lRows As Long Application.ScreenUpdating = False sAddStart = Selection.Address Set rng = Range("A1").CurrentRegion With rng lRows = .Rows.Count - 1 .Cells(1).EntireColumn.Insert .Cells(1).Offset(0, -1) = "Temp" .Cells(1).Offset(1, -1).FormulaR1C1 = _ "=+RC&"" ""&ROW()" .Cells(1).Offset(2, -1).FormulaR1C1 = _ "=+R[-1]C&"" ""&ROW()" Set rng2 = .Cells(1).Offset(1, -1).Resize(lRows, 1) Range(.Cells(2, 0), .Cells(3, 0)).AutoFill _ Destination:=rng2 rng2.Copy rng2.PasteSpecial Paste:=xlValues .Columns(1).MergeCells = False .CurrentRegion.Sort _ Key1:=Range("A2"), Order1:=xlAscending, _ Header:=xlYes, OrderCustom:=1, _ MatchCase:=False, Orientation:=xlTopToBottom rng2.EntireColumn.Delete With Range(.Cells(2, 1), .Cells(3, 1)) .Merge .Copy .Cells(3, 1).Resize(lRows - 2, 1). _ PasteSpecial Paste:=xlFormats End With End With Application.CutCopyMode = False Range(sAddStart).Select Application.ScreenUpdating = True End Sub
The macro inserts a temporary column, reads the items from the first column of the list, appends the row number, copies it down the temporary column, unmerges the cells, sorts the list, deletes the temporary column, and re-merges column A. (That's a lot of work just to sort a table with merged cells!)
This macro is very specific to a particular layout of your data, and therefore would need to be tested and probably modified to make sure it would work with data formatted in any other way.
ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2581) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Excel (Excel 2007 and later) here: Sorting Data Containing Merged Cells.
Excel Smarts for Beginners! Featuring the friendly and trusted For Dummies style, this popular guide shows beginners how to get up and running with Excel while also helping more experienced users get comfortable with the newest features. Check out Excel 2013 For Dummies today!