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As to the question of why there is a sorting option in the view bar which appears to do nothing, the answer is that the sorting there is sorting entire projects, not actions. If you have 2 projects in view, each with a different due date, and you set the doting option to sort the display by due date, you'll see the project with the earliest due date first. If you want to see a list that is sorted on an action-by-action basis, you want context mode, not project mode.

What Brian has described to you is a destructive sort, accomplishing the same result as if you manually reordered the actions. The sorting option in the view bar does not permanently change the order of the actions (or projects), only the ordering of the view in that window. Two different concepts, one confusing name :-)