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How To Sort A List Randomly In Excel

Have a list of names in a spreadsheet and want to sort them into a random order? There’s no native function to do that in Excel, but you can achieve it with a little random number generation. Here’s how I do it.

Sorting names randomly can be useful (for instance if you’re assigning tasks or picking a competition winner). This probably isn’t the most sophisticated way to do it, but it works. Assuming your list of names is already in Excel, follow these steps.

  • Insert a new column on the list next to your list of names. (Click the Insert drop-down on the Home tab and choose ‘Insert Sheet Column’.)
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  • In the first cell in that column, enter the formula =RAND(). (This generates a random number between 0 and 1.)
  • Fill that formula to the end of your list by holding Shift, pressing the down key until you’ve selected to the row where your list ends, and typing Control-D to auto-fill. This will place a different random number in each cell next to the relevant names.
  • Select the column filled with random numbers by clicking on the initial row letter at the top.
  • Click on the ‘Sort & Filter’ button on the Home tab and choose ‘Sort Smallest To Largest’. Excel will offer to expand the selection (so you’ll actually sort the names as well). Click OK.
  • Select the column again by clicking on the initial row letter and then click Delete. This gets rid of the random numbers, as you no longer need them.