MS Word question - sorting a three column table

I need to produce a three column table in MS Word. The tough part is the information flows from one column to another, and have to be sorted by alphabetical order. So in short, I need to transform a table which looks like this:

a   c  b
d   f  e
g  h   i

to this, via sorting:

a   d   g
b   e   h
c    f   i

How do I go about creating such a table in MS Word, beside arranging the index manually?

I don’t have an answer for you, but I’m just wondering why you are trying to do this in Word (and since you typed it a few times, I know it’s not a typo), and not in Excel?

Not that I could help you there either. But it seems it would be a billion times easier to manipulate the data in Excel.

Not sayin’ for positive it cain’t be done, but I know more’n a little 'bout Word and don’t think so. Posting this so that, if you don’t get any helpful responses, you’ll know it’s because no one else thinks so either. As opposed to, say, assuming we’re just ignoring you.

What you could do is set up a section with the table text and format that in three columns. Put continuous section breaks before-and-after. You can then select the text and alpha-sort from the Table menu. The problem is that, while this will resemble a table, it won’t be perfect. And I can think of no way to migrate the sorted text with columns intact into a table.

BTW, if any of the other Word mavens have an answer, don’t be shy. I’m always willin’ to learn a new trick.

You can do it with text columns, but i’m not sure about within a table.

That’s a mess.

A table is the tool to use when the items in each row are strongly connected to each other. It should not be used just for formatting unrelated items to print side by side on the page. That’s what columns are for.

So first, un-tableize the data. Cut column 2, and paste it below the table. Then do the same thing to column 3.

Now you’ve got 3 single-column tables one after the other.

Un-tableize them, then delete the extra blank paragraphs.

Select the whole area & choose Table - Sort (Data doesn’t have to be a table to use the many of the features on the Table menu)

Format the page / section with 3 columns.

Never put data like that into a table again.

Think of it as three tables side by side, with the end of one table “flowing” into the next table. Problem situation: I have a list of 100 items, each item being just a mere phrase. If I just list one item on one row, then I have 100 rows, which means a lot of pages.

So, what I want to do is to have three items on each row, but it will be hard to sort the items alphabetically. As there are 100 items, I don’t think manually sorting is acceptable.

So what I want is something like this:

Apple     Pineapples 
Banans    Oranges
Durians   Zebras

This sort of practise have been done commonly in many published books. I’m just wondering if it could be done in Word.

What don’t you understand? I described exactly how to convert the mess you have into what you want. And there is NO manual sorting involved.

Had you used columns from the beginning like you should have, instead of using a table incorrectly, we wouldn’t be having this issue needing several one-time steps to repair the damage.

Once you get the document formattted correctly you can add any new items on the end, select the whole area & click Sort. They’ll instantly be neatly sorted into 3 columns with the new items right where they belong as you want them.

And next time you write a similar document, just make the entries one after the other not in a table and in no particular order, set your columns, select the items and click Sort. Viola, instant sorted columns.

So Yes, Word does have a feature to do exactly what you want. it’s called “Columns.” But No, Word doesn’t have a single-click button which will automatically convert one particular goofed up table arrangement to the right arrangement for doing what you want.

I’m sorry if this sounds hostile; I’m trying to be emphatic. I handed you the easy & correct solution. Try it. It’s not hard & will take about 2 minutes total.

If you arer happy with your table method all you have to do is set up the table so it is sorted by column A, then column B, then column C. Just move entries that are in B but are less than the last entry in A to column A. Do the same with entries in C - move to B. It will only take amoment, once you have a look.

The data needs to be sorted. I am keying in the data randomly, not copied from a book, an article or a list. I am coming up with the 100 items on the fly. If I have started with 3 columns, then I cannot sort without putting them into some form of data first. Since my priority is sorting, I decide to use a table.

I haven’t even started on working on the document. I think you are making a big deal out of some small thing.

Thanks for your suggestion though. I’ll read it more carefully, if you weren’t that hostile.

Word regards everything in a row of a table to be related, rather than viewing each cell as its own independent entity. So no, there’s no way to do what you describe in the OP.

You will have to get everything into one column, sort, then divide it into however many columns you need for display.

I aplogize if I came across hostile. That truly wasn’t my intent.

The critical point is that the term “Table” (big T) in Word means something specific: A Table is a concept where each row is independent, but the column entries in one row are strongly connected to each other & stay together when the Table is rearranged. That’s exactly NOT the way your data is structured.

That’s a different idea from a typograhical table (small t) which just means un-related entries arranged on a regular grid. That’s what your data is like.

So thinking of your data as a Table is inappropriate. Thinking of it as a table is fine.
If you haven’t started entering stuff yet then it’s even easier than I suggested.

Just type each item on a separate line with no table at all.

So type

more stuff
the gettysburg adddress
men first went to the moon in 1969
pig cheese is good
a longer item that I want to sort up top along with the other a words.

etc., for however many items you have, be it 10 or 100 or 1000. Don’t worry about entering them in any order. Word can sort them later.

Now select (highlight) just the part of your document that is your list (I’m assuming you have conventional single-column text before and after the list part). Choose Format | Columns from the menu. Make sure the “Apply To” setting at the bottom is “Selected Text”, then click the tool button for 3 columns & click [OK]. Now you have 3 columns in whatever order you entered them.

Now with the same area selected, Choose Table | Sort from the menu & click [OK].

Problem done. Your entries are in 3 columns, the first item in the first column is the lowest sort, and they go in order down the first column, then down the second column, and then down the third, so Apple is at the upper left and Zebra is at the lower right.
If you want to add more entries later, just put your cursor at the end of the last entry, press Enter & start typing each entry into a separate paragraph. Once you’re done with the new entries, select (highlight) the whole group & choose Table | Sort from the menu again.
If you want it to look like a big-T Table with a box around each item you can do that too …

With the whole list area selected, choose Format | Border & Shading from the menu, then click the tool buttons at the right for all possible lines, left, right, top, center & bottom. Click [OK]. That’ll put each entry in a box, but the 3 columns will have a gap between them.

To get rid of the gap, choose Format | Columns form the menu again, change the “Spacing” value to zero and check the “Line Between” box.

Now you have a column set that looks like Table but behaves like you want.
Hope that’s helpful & not hostile.

Here’s another way of looking at what LSLGuy is saying. (A new view often helps.)

A Table full of things in MSWord is physically structured much like this (where the *<tab>*s mark cell boundaries):


The program could be written to sort that by columns, but as LSLGuy says, each row of a Table is really a unit and shouldn’t be broken up.

The Column method he talks about is purely formatting; the physical structure is really:


That single column is easy to sort, and specifying three Column format makes Word present it on the page the way you want it.

Oooh, I just tried the method and was pleasantly surprised to see that you can sort by paragraphs too. That solves the problem neatly. Thanks LSLGuy and rjk!