You are correct, the information on the Outline - Manual tab is not in an Excel formatted table. So what is happening is Excel is making a best guess as to what to sort. If you select a cell in one of the columns of data and choose sort, Excel looks up and down, looking for blank rows or 'header' rows. This is where it gets tricky. What does Excel think is a header row? If the row is formatted differently from the rest of the data, or if the row is only text and the data contains numbers, Excel might recognize it as a header row. The key word is might.
For example, in the following screenshot,
- In the Graphics section, I selected a cell in the city column, chose sort, and it worked.
- In the First Test section, I selected a cell in the Last column, chose sort, and it worked.
- In the Second Test section, I selected a cell in the Last column, chose sort, and the sort included the 'header' data.
This is an example of how Excel tries to determine if there is a header before sorting, but is not always successful. If Excel doesn't recognize your header row and tries to sort it with the data, you can try formatting it differently from the rest of the data. But it doesn't always work. Your best bet is to format the data as a table.
Formatting the data as a table also solves your second question, by adding the triangle to each header cell, to allow sorting and filtering on that column.
If you do not want to insert a table, you can still add the sort/filter dropdown to the 'header' cells. Select the cell or cells that make up your 'header'. Then Go to the Sort & Filter menu on the Home ribbon, and choose Filter.
For sorting the sections separately, a blank row between the sections should work. This will allow Excel to recognize the separate sections. But it goes back to hoping Excel recognizes this correctly. The way to ensure this would be to create to tables.
Hope this help, let me know if you have more questions.