February 14, 2024
Written By
Rand Owens
Founding team member at Motive (Formerly KeepTruckin) and passionate about all things Marketing, RevOps, and Go-To-Market. VP of Marketing @ Polymer Search.

How to Organize Data in Google Sheets

Learning how to organize data in Google Sheets is an essential step toward effective data management.

Google Sheets has a handful of sorting and filtering functions to help you obtain data with ease. 

This chapter is a walkthrough of how to organize your Google Sheets data using custom filters, built-in sorting tools, and the SORT function.

Let’s begin.

Table of Contents

  • The importance of organizing data in Google Sheets
  • Types of data sorting in Google Sheets
  • 10 Ways to organize data in Google Sheets
  • 1. Organize Google Sheets data by sorting in alphabetical order
  • 2. Organize Google Sheets data via sorting by range
  • 3. Organize Google Sheets data through sorting by numerical value
  • 4. Organize Google Sheets data by sorting based on two separate columns
  • 5. Organize Google Sheets data by sorting based on dates
  • 6. Organize Google Sheets data using filters
  • 7. Organize Google Sheets data using the SORT function
  • 8. Organize Google Sheets data by sorting by color
  • 9. Sort Google Sheets data and keep blank rows
  • 10. Sort Google Sheets data without messing up existing formulas
  • Take data management to a whole new level with Polymer

The importance of organizing data in Google Sheets

Data organization in Google Sheets ensures data quality and improves productivity. It’s the next step towards building a business dashboard after learning to import data into Google Sheets. 

Organizing data makes your dashboard more scannable and visually presentable—simplifying data analysis for all stakeholders. 

A systematic approach to data organization helps highlight trends, identify correlations, spot errors, and make data-driven decisions. All these are essential to learning how to create a KPI dashboard in Google Sheets with actionable insights.

Learning how to sort and filter data is also important for using other Google Sheets features, like translating a data range into a visual chart.

Types of data sorting in Google Sheets

Google Sheets lets you sort data alphabetically or numerically with just a few clicks. 

You can also use filters to organize data based on colors, values, and conditions. Custom conditions can be set to filter out specific cells, like:

  • Empty cells
  • Cells that include or exclude a keyword
  • Cells with a specific date
  • Cells with data greater, less than, equal to, or in-between specified values

If you need to learn how to create a dynamic dashboard in Google Sheets, you should understand how “filter views” work. 

Google Sheets allow multiple filter views, which saves data organization configurations for later access. Filter views can be named, duplicated, and shared with other team members. 

Creating multiple filter views is a crucial step in how to create a Google Sheets dashboard, especially if you need a multi-purpose dashboard for all your business analytics. 

10 Ways to organize data in Google Sheets

Here are 10 data organization methods for Google Sheets. 

Tip: Consider choosing from any of these free Google Sheets dashboard templates and experiment with these data organization methods.

1. Organize Google Sheets data by sorting in alphabetical order

Use the quick data sorting features to organize a data range or the entire sheet alphabetically.

To sort an entire sheet, go to your spreadsheet and select any cell under the column you want to sort by (you can also click the column header). This can be the column for names, cities, product names, or any other alphabetic data set. 

Image Source: Sheets.Google.com

Open the ‘Data’ menu, highlight ‘Sort sheet,’ and choose whether to sort the sheet in a successive or reverse alphabetical order.

Image Source: Sheets.Google.com

Alphabetically sorting the entire sheet also rearranges the rest of the columns in your spreadsheet. This maintains the proper row alignment of your data.

2. Organize Google Sheets data via sorting by range

To organize a data range, highlight the cells you want to sort or click the column header. 

Image Source: Sheets.Google.com

Open ‘Data’ from the main menu and click ‘Sort range.’ From there, you have the option to sort alphabetically from A-Z or from Z-A.

Take note that you can only sort cells under the same column. Multiple columns can be selected and rearranged at once.

Image Source: Sheets.Google.com

3. Organize Google Sheets data through sorting by numerical value

To sort numerical data columns in ascending order, select the cells or column header you want to organize. 

Go to the ‘Data’ menu and choose either ‘Sort sheet’ or ‘Sort range.’ 

Select ‘Sort Sheet (A to Z)’ to sort the numbers in ascending order.

Image Source: Sheets.Google.com

To sort the data in descending order, select ‘Sort sheet (Z to A).’

Image Source: Sheets.Google.com

If you want to learn how to create a sales dashboard in Google Sheets, sorting by numerical data is an easy way to identify your top-performing products. Or, sort the data in descending order to track products with low sales.

4. Organize Google Sheets data by sorting based on two separate columns

Use advanced range sorting options to organize Google Sheets data by multiple columns.

First, select the cell range or columns you want to sort. From the main menu, head to ‘Data,’ go to ‘Sort range,’ and select ‘Advanced range sorting options.’

Image Source: Sheets.Google.com

If your sheet has a header row for labeling purposes, tick the ‘Data has header row’ checkbox. This prompts Google Sheets to exclude the top row in filtering and sorting operations. 

Select the correct column in the “Sort by” drop-down menu and choose whether to arrange the data in ascending or descending order. 

Image Source: Sheets.Google.com

To sort data based on another column, click ‘Add another sort column.’ Specify the additional columns you want to use from the drop-down menu and select the sorting order.

Image Source: Sheets.Google.com

5. Organize Google Sheets data by sorting based on dates

Sorting Google Sheets data by date uses the same steps as other data sorting operations. Just use the ‘Sort range’ or ‘Sort sheet’ tools from the ‘Data’ menu.

Just ensure your spreadsheet has a column for dates that follow a consistent format. 

Image Source: Sheets.Google.com

6. Organize Google Sheets data using filters

To organize Google Sheets data with filters, select the cell range you want to process, open the ‘Data’ menu, and click ‘Create a filter.’ Alternatively, click the filter button (funnel icon) from the main toolbar. 

Image Source: Sheets.Google.com

A filter icon should appear to the right of the selected column header. Click on it to reveal the different filter options and organize your data. 

Image Source: Sheets.Google.com

Filters let you organize your Google Sheets data using a variety of conditions. 

Under “Filter by condition,” use the drop-down menu to specify the cell properties you want to sieve out. Your options include but are not limited to the following:

  • (Cell) is empty
  • (Cell) is not empty
  • (Text) contains
  • (Text) starts with
  • (Text) ends with
  • (Text) is exactly
  • (Date) is on
  • (Date) is after
  • (Date) is before
  • (Value) is less than
  • (Value) is greater than
  • (Value) is equal to
Image Source: Sheets.Google.com

Under “Filter by values,” you can specifically filter out data rows that contain a specific alphanumeric value.

Suppose you have a column that tracks the types of tests based on the times they ran (morning run, afternoon run, evening run, etc.). 

Expand the “Filter by values” sub-menu and select the data values you want to highlight. 

Image Source: Sheets.Google.com

Google Sheets will automatically refresh your sheet to include only the data rows that contain the specified values. 

Image Source: Sheets.Google.com

7. Organize Google Sheets data using the SORT function

Select any cell and type in the SORT function formula “=SORT(range, sort_column, is ascending)” to quickly organize your Google Sheets data. 

Here’s a quick rundown of the SORT function’s parameters: 

  • Range: The cell range that contains the data to be sorted. 
  • sort_column: The column by which the data will be sorted. 
  • is_ascending: Defines whether the data should be sorted in ascending or descending order.

For clarity, let’s sort the “City” column below based on data from the “Duration” column. 

Image Source: Sheets.Google.com

In this case, the “range” parameter pertains to the “City” column, whereas the “sort_column” parameter is the “Duration” column. 

Plug in the cells’ ranges into the formula like this: 

Image Source: Sheets.Google.com

An organized copy of the “City” column data should appear on the cell where the formula is entered. Since the “Duration” range is used as the “sort_column” parameter, it will be used as the basis of the output column’s order. 

You also have the option to arrange the data in ascending or descending order. Just remember to enter “True” as your “is_ascending” parameter to organize the data ascendingly or “False” to organize it descendingly. 

8. Organize Google Sheets data by sorting by color

Use filters to organize your Google Sheets data based on the cell’s fill color or font color. 

This requires you to use different colors in the specified range. If you select a range that uses the same colors all throughout, the options to sort the data by color will be greyed out. 

Image Source: Sheets.Google.com

Create a filter for the selected range and click on the filter icon in the column header. Select ‘Sort by color’ and specify if you want to sort the data based on the cell’s fill color or text color. 

Image Source: Sheets.Google.com

Select the color of the cells that you want to put on the top rows. When done, Google Sheets should automatically update your sheet’s arrangement.

Image Source: Sheets.Google.com

9. Sort Google Sheets data and keep blank rows

To keep blank rows when sorting Google Sheets data, create a filter and select ‘(Blanks)’ under “Filter by values.” This will tell Google Sheets to include rows with empty cells when sorting your data. 

Image Source: Sheets.Google.com

To put rows with blank cells at the top of the column, create a filter that only shows the blank cells and fill them with a different color. 

Image Source: Sheets.Google.com

Go back to the filter menu and click ‘Select all’ under “Filter by values.” Click ‘OK’ to reveal the rest of the column. 

Next, open the filter menu again, click ‘Sort by color,’ and choose the color you assigned to the blank cells. This automatically refreshes the column with the blank data sorted into the top rows.

Image Source: Sheets.Google.com

10. Sort Google Sheets data without messing up existing formulas

Google Sheets formulas fail for a number of reasons when sorting or filtering data—each reason requiring a specific solution.

Hundreds of things can go wrong when managing Google Sheets data with formulas. 

For most sorting-related issues, a simple-yet-effective preventive measure is to enter formulas outside the data range. This would eliminate “#REF!” errors that stem from conflicting values in referenced cells. 

Image Source: Sheets.Google.com

When using the SORT function, ensure that the range and sort_column parameters have the exact same size. Otherwise, this would lead to an “#N/A” error with a mismatched range size message. 

Image Source: Sheets.Google.com

Pros and cons of organizing data in Google Sheets

Google Sheets’ built-in data organization features are handy and usually reliable, but they’re not perfect. 

Here are the pros and cons of organizing your data in Google Sheets: 

Pros:

  • Accessible. You can easily organize data with a few clicks using the built-in sorting and filtering tools. 
  • Advanced sorting functions. Use the SORT function to quickly create advanced sorting rules, including conditions with multiple columns. 
  • Streamline data management and visualization. Sort, manage, and visualize your data into charts without leaving your Google Sheets workbook. 
  • Collaborate with team members. Share your Google Sheets spreadsheet with team members to collaborate using comments, suggestions, and real-time edits. 
  • Integrate with data management tools. Apart from Google Workspace (formerly “G Suite”), Google Sheets is supported by a range of platforms—from business analytics solutions to email marketing software. 

Cons: 

  • Data management can be messy. Even if you don’t get an error, small syntax mistakes and misclicked cells can cause faulty calculations and data arrangements. 
  • Performance issues. Unlike enterprise-grade data management solutions, Google Sheets struggle with loading, sorting, and processing data sets with millions of values.
  • Outclassed by other data management software. Google Sheets pales in comparison against other Business Intelligence (BI) solutions. Polymer, for example, has a drag-and-drop interface for creating visuals, sorting your data, and incorporating interactive elements (ROI calculator, pivot table, etc.). 

Take data management to a whole new level with Polymer

Use Polymer to kick your data organization up a notch and build visual, data-rich dashboards effortlessly and quickly.

Polymer integrates with Google Sheets to enable quick and easy data imports from Google Sheets to Polymer.

See Polymer in action by starting a free trial here

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