Excel offers an easy way to search or modify complex data sets using the AutoFilter feature. In order to use this tool, it is useful to understand how Excel identifies the boundaries of a data set. Excel assumes that a data set extends from the initial cell that you select outward in each direction until there is a row or column that has no values. So, while it’s alright to have some blank cells in your range, any column or row that has only blank cells will be interpreted as the edge of your data set. To begin filtering your data, click anywhere in the range you want to filter, then go to the Data ribbon and click Filter. Excel will then generate dropdown arrows in each cell along the top row of your data set.
You can click on any of the dropdown arrows to see the various AutoFilter options. These options can vary depending on the type of data included in the column. If the column contains text, there will be options to sort alphabetically (from A to Z) or in reverse alphabetical order (from Z to A), as well as free text filtering which includes AND/OR/NOT logic. In columns that contain numbers, AutoFilter presents the options to sort from Smallest to Largest, Largest to Smallest, or a variety of Number Filters. You can also select a particular value or values to see only the rows that contain the selected value(s). You can filter on multiple columns in order to further refine your data. AutoFilter is one of the simples tools in Excel to use, but can also be extremely powerful in allowing users to sort and filter through large data sets.