Prepared by Elisabeth Lindsay.
Sort is a computer term referring to the logical organization and re-organization of data. Data can be sorted in a number of ways, including alphabetically, numerically or, as in a spreadsheet or table, by column, independent of column contents. This is beneficial to helping view data in multiple ways. Sorting can be done manually (by hand) or electronically (by computer). Computer spreadsheet and word processor programs may have different sort criteria. The most complex sort can be done with spreadsheets.
The ability to sort data is useful to genealogy researchers, allowing various elements to analyzed and compared. The ability to sort electronically is a convenience and a time saver, and significantly reduces the margin of error over alphabetizing or sorting data manually. At the simplest level, entering a list of names and then sorting them alphabetically is very convenient and has many uses. When using a spreadsheet, the ability to prioritize and sort columns is also useful. One might sort not only by name but by location, birthdate, or other factors. When conducting a sort, it is always advisable to make a backup copy of your data before sorting, in the event the criteria entered for the sort is incorrect. Always keeping a backup allows you to retrieve the original and try again.