Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Word 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Word, click here: Sorting by Headings.

Sorting by Headings

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated February 6, 2021)

A useful trick you can use when developing some types of documents is the ability to sort the various parts of the document based on the headings you use. For instance, you can sort the document based on first-level headings (paragraphs that use the Heading 1 style) by following these steps:

  1. Switch to Outline view by clicking on the Outline view button that appears just to the left of the horizontal scroll bar.
  2. Using the controls on the Outlining toolbar, collapse the headings so that only the first-level headings are shown. (This step is not strictly necessary, but does make the screen a bit more readable.)
  3. Place the cursor at the beginning of the first heading and press Ctrl+Shift+End to select everything through the end of the document.
  4. Choose Sort from the Table menu. Word displays the Sort Text dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  5. Figure 1. The Sort Text dialog box.

  6. Click on OK to accept the default settings in the dialog box.

Had you skipped the first two steps and performed the sort in any view besides Outline view, every paragraph would have been sorted alphabetically and therefore rearranged so that subordinate paragraphs would be separated from their headings. In other words, you would have a mess. However, in Outline view, the highest-level headings are sorted, bringing along the subordinate heading levels and body text.

If you wanted to sort by Heading 2 paragraphs, you should also use Outline view, but you would have to first select all the Heading 2 paragraphs subordinate to a particular Heading 1 paragraph and then sort. You will get the same results regardless of how many heading levels that you show on the Outline toolbar.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (41) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Word (Word 2007 and later) here: Sorting by Headings.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

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. ...

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