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I have some questions about sorting on multiple columns in a desktop application. I have read this thread: How to sort on a single column; OR multiple columns at once, but I guess we won't be able to create this technically.

I guess its common behaviour that columns can be shift+clicked to add to the sort criteria. But as this is hidden for users, we also have a command button that could launch a popup to set the sort criteria.

These are options which we have already considered:

  • a popup with a list selector (select columns by moving column names from a list with existing columns to the "selected columns" list


  • a popup like the one in Excel (Sort-button on ribbon-tab "Data", 2

My questions are:

  • are there other possibilities to get the columns that need sorting?
  • how to mark the order of a selected column in the first option? I have this feeling that this checkbox is not clear enough, is it? Would a switch with two labels are a ribbon group be a better option?
  • how to show sort order on the result list? Our simple sort is marked by an arrow in the header
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up vote 1 down vote accepted

Are there other possibilities to get the columns that need sorting?

You can always show the dialogue box inline and give imediate feedback on current sort criterias. It would enhance user experience, as feedback is an important factor, especially on advanced tasks.

Personally i like Microsoft Excel sort dialogue box. Simple, clean and easy to manage:

Microsoft Excel Sort box

How to show sort order on the result list? Our simple sort is marked by an arrow in the header?

Use the well known arrows representing up and down. If you have more than one columns sorted, add sort order with a distinct number (1) (2) (3).

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Showing this box inline will technically be a hard one to achieve. I doubted to choose the Excel-popup, because of the adding/deleting of levels? If you show arrows to sort this, how can the user know what the current state is for the sort order? The combobox seems to be multiple clicks for something simple, yet it is straightforward in use. I like the way you solve the problem to show the sort order. Thanks for your reply. – Kim Sep 4 '12 at 7:39
@Kim If a task is complicated, like this one, no of clicks is irrelevant (imho) since its more important to enable users with the tool getting it to work, rather than minimize no of clicks. But if you can, without compromizing ease of use, it would be the best. Good luck on implementation! – Benny Skogberg Sep 4 '12 at 8:22

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