How to Create Data Lists in Excel Spreadsheets

List of stock share prices

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When you have data, use a spreadsheet like Excel to store it. Excel has built-in tools to keep track of data and to find specific information when you want it. With its hundreds of ​columns and thousands of rows, an Excel spreadsheet can hold an enormous amount of data. Enter data in a worksheet and, with just a few steps, sort through your data and find what you want.

Instructions in this article apply to Excel 2019, 2016, 2013, 2010; Excel for Office 365, Excel Online, and Excel for Mac.

Enter Data into Excel Tables

The basic format for storing data in Excel is a table. In a table, data is entered in rows. Each row is known as a record. Once a table has been created, use Excel's data tools to search, sort, and filter the records to find specific information.

A screenshot showing data that is entered correctly into rows and columns in Excel

The first step to create a table is to enter the data. When creating the table, make sure the data is entered correctly. Do not leave any empty cells when creating your table because this may cause problems in the future.

Data errors caused by incorrect data entry are the source of many problems related to data management. If the data is entered correctly in the beginning, you'll get the results you want.

Excel's Rows and Columns

Rows of data are known as records. When entering records keep these guidelines in mind:

  • Leave no blank rows in the table being created, not even between the headings and the first row of data.
  • Each record contains data about only one specific item.
  • Each record contains all the data about that item. There can't be information about an item in more than one row.
  • A table of data needs to contain at least two data records before a list is created.

While rows in the table are referred to as records, the columns are known as fields. Each column needs a heading to identify the data it contains. These headings are called field names.

  • Field names are used to ensure that the data for each record is entered in the same sequence.
  • Enter the data in a column using the same format. If numbers are entered as digits (such as 10 or 20) keep it up. Don't change part way through and begin entering numbers as words (such as ten or twenty). Be consistent.
  • Leave no blank columns in the table.
  • The table must contain at least two columns before a list is created.

Create a List in Excel

After you've correctly entered data into a table and included the proper headers, convert the table to a list.

  1. Select a cell in the table.

  2. Select Home > Sort & Filter > Filter.

  3. Column header arrows appear to the right of each header.

    A screenshot showing a data list in Excel that contains filter buttons

When you select a column header arrow, a filter menu appears. This menu contains options to sort the list by any of the field names and to search the list for records that match certain criteria.