How to sort by multiple columns in Laravel? [SOLVED]

Written By - Steve Alila

Sorting query results is a common requirement in web development, and Laravel's query builder provides a powerful and flexible way to perform sorting operations on database queries. While sorting by a single column is straightforward, there are situations where you may need to sort the results based on multiple columns simultaneously. This allows for more refined and specific sorting arrangements that cater to complex sorting requirements.

When handling complex data structures, it is often necessary to sort by multiple columns to structure the data in a way that is meaningful and useful. Fortunately, Laravel provides developers with a variety of methods to efficiently "sort by multiple columns". These methods range from basic ordering functions, like orderBy(), to more complex options, such as using raw SQL expressions with the orderByRaw() method. Each method has its own unique advantages and uses, making Laravel a versatile tool for handling and displaying database data.

Before we dive into the details, it's worth noting that a basic understanding of Laravel's query builder and SQL syntax will be beneficial. Familiarity with the Eloquent ORM and database concepts will also enhance your comprehension of the examples and techniques discussed throughout the blog post.


Sorting by a Single Column

Basic sorting using orderBy()

When working with Laravel's query builder, sorting by a single column is a fundamental operation. The orderBy() method allows us to specify the column by which we want to sort the query results. Let's take a look at a code example to illustrate the process:

$sorted_users = DB::table('users')

In the above code snippet, we have a query builder instance targeting the "users" table. By calling the orderBy() method and passing the column name 'name' as its argument, we instruct the query builder to sort the results based on the "name" column. The resulting rows will be arranged in ascending order by default.

How to sort a Laravel query builder result by multiple columns?

It's worth noting that the orderBy() method can be placed anywhere in the query builder chain, but it is typically used before the get() or first() method to ensure the sorting is applied to the final results.


Sorting by Multiple Columns

Sorting query results by multiple columns allows for more granular control over the order of the data. Laravel's query builder facilitates this functionality by enabling us to chain multiple orderBy() calls together. Each orderBy() call specifies a column to sort by, and the order in which the orderBy() calls are chained determines the priority of the sorting columns.


1. Using orderBy() Method

To sort query results by multiple columns, we can make use of the orderBy() method multiple times in the query builder chain. Let's consider an example where we sort a list of users by names and emails:

    $unsorted = User::all();

    $sorted = User::orderBy('name', 'ASC')
                    ->orderBy('email', 'DESC')

    return view('welcome', compact('unsorted', 'sorted'));
  1. We retrieve all the records from the users table and assign them to the $unsorted variable using the all() method of the User model. This variable contains the unsorted list of users.
  2. We retrieve the records from the users table, but this time we apply sorting based on two columns: 'name' in ascending order (ASC) and 'email' in descending order (DESC). The orderBy() method is used to specify the sorting criteria. The sorted results are assigned to the $sorted variable.
  3. We return a view called 'welcome' and pass the $unsorted and $sorted variables to the view using the compact() function. This allows the view to access these variables and display the data.

In the view file, you can access the $unsorted and $sorted variables to display the user data as needed. The $unsorted variable will contain all the users in the order they were retrieved from the database, while the $sorted variable will contain the users sorted by name in ascending order and then by email in descending order.

How to sort by multiple columns in Laravel? [SOLVED]


2. Using orderByDesc() Method

The orderByDesc() method sorts the query results by a column in descending order. It can be used in conjunction with orderBy() for multiple columns. Here's an example:

$users = DB::table('users')

In this example, the query results will be sorted by 'name' in ascending order and then by 'email' in descending order.

How to sort by multiple columns in Laravel? [SOLVED]


3. Sorting using Collections

Laravel collections provide a sortBy() method that you can use for sorting. Here's an example:

$users = User::all()->sortBy('name');

In this example, the collection of users is sorted by the 'name' attribute in ascending order.

How to sort by multiple columns in Laravel? [SOLVED]


4. Using orderBy() with CASE statement

Using a CASE statement in conjunction with orderBy() enables you to conditionally order your data. Here's an example:

$users = DB::table('users')
    ->orderBy(DB::raw("CASE WHEN column1 = 'value' THEN 1 ELSE 2 END"))

In this example, the query results are ordered using a CASE statement. Rows where 'column1' equals 'value' will be sorted first (assigned a value of 1), and the rest will be sorted afterward (assigned a value of 2).

How to sort by multiple columns in Laravel? [SOLVED]


Best Practices and Tips

When sorting query results by multiple columns in Laravel using the query builder, it's important to consider some best practices and tips to ensure optimal performance and handle specific considerations. Let's explore some of these practices:

Optimizing performance when sorting by multiple columns

  1. Indexing: To improve sorting performance, consider adding indexes to the columns involved in the sorting operation. Indexing can significantly speed up the sorting process by allowing the database engine to efficiently retrieve and order the data.
  2. Limit the result set: If you're dealing with a large dataset, consider using pagination or adding a limit clause to your query to retrieve and sort smaller subsets of data at a time. This can enhance performance by reducing the amount of data being sorted.

Considering the order of columns for sorting

  1. Order significance: The order of the orderBy() calls determines the priority of the sorting columns. Ensure that you define the order of columns based on their significance in the sorting arrangement. Columns specified earlier will have higher precedence in sorting.
  2. Sorting direction: When sorting by multiple columns, consider the sorting direction for each column. Be mindful of the logical order and whether each column should be sorted in ascending or descending order to achieve the desired sorting behavior.

Using column aliases for complex sorting scenarios

  1. Aliasing columns: In some cases, you may need to perform complex sorting operations involving expressions, calculations, or joins. In such scenarios, it can be useful to alias the columns involved in sorting to provide more descriptive and meaningful names for sorting purposes.
  2. selectRaw() and orderByRaw(): Use the selectRaw() method to define custom <a title="Select specific columns in Laravel Eloquent? [SOLVED]" href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">column aliases in the select</a> statement. Then, utilize the <code>orderByRaw() method to order the results based on the aliased columns.

Dealing with null values in sorting

  1. Null handling: When sorting by multiple columns, you may encounter situations where some columns contain null values. By default, null values are treated as the smallest possible value and are typically ordered first in ascending order and last in descending order.
  2. Custom null handling: If you want to customize the sorting behavior for null values, you can use the orderByRaw() method and provide a conditional expression to handle null values explicitly.



In this blog post, we explored how to sort query results by multiple columns using Laravel's query builder. We learned how to use the orderBy() method to sort by a single column and then dived into sorting by multiple columns by chaining multiple orderBy() calls. We also discussed best practices, including optimizing performance, considering column order, using column aliases, and handling null values in sorting.

Sorting query results by multiple columns in Laravel provides powerful customization options for data presentation and organization. By understanding and implementing these techniques, you can efficiently sort and display data in your applications, enhancing user experience and flexibility.


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