Sort It Your Way With Excel Custom Lists

You know how to sort an Excel list alphabetically, and with Excel 2007 you can even sort an Excel list by colour. Did you know that you can also create a custom list in Excel and use that to sort your data, instead of sorting in alphabetical or numerical order?
Instead of sorting the products in this table alphabetically, we’ll create a custom list of products, and use it when sorting the list.

Create a Custom List in Excel

You can create a custom list in Excel by importing a list from a worksheet, or by typing a new list. In this example, there is a worksheet named Lists, and it contains a product list. We’ll import that list, to create the custom list.

To open the custom list window:

  • Select the cells that contain the list items
  • On the Ribbon, click the File Tab (or the Office Button in Excel 2007)
  • Then click Options.
  • Excel 2010 and later: Click the Advanced category, then scroll down to the General section
  • Excel 2007: Click the Popular category, then look in the Top Options section
  • Click Edit Custom Lists

To add a custom list:

  • In the Custom Lists dialog box, the list address — $A$2:$A$5 — should appear in the Import range box. If not, you can click in the Import range box, and type a range, or select a range on the worksheet.
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  • To add the selected range as a custom list, click the Import button.
  • The list items will appear in the List entries section of the Custom List dialog box, and at the end of the list of existing Custom Lists.
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  • Click OK to close the Custom Lists dialog box, and click OK to close the Excel Options window.

Use the Custom List

You can use the custom lists when sorting, and you can also use them with the AutoFill feature. Type any item from a custom list in a cell, then use the Fill handle to complete the list.

Sort the Excel List in Custom Order

To sort your list based on your custom list, follow these steps:

  • Select a cell in the table that you want to sort.
  • On the Ribbon’s Data tab, click Sort
  • In the Sort dialog box, select a Column from the first drop down, and select Values from the Sort On drop down.
  • In the Order drop down, click Custom List
  • In the Custom List dialog box, select your custom list, and click OK
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  • Click OK to close the Sort dialog box

The list is sorted in the order of the items in your custom list.

Watch the Excel Sort Video

To see the steps for adding an Excel Custom List, then sorting by that Custom List, watch this short Excel video tutorial.