How to Use AutoFill in Excel

Jan 31, 2020 • edited Feb 01, 2020

How to Use AutoFill in Excel

When you are pressed for time, every single minute counts. So you need to know every way to automate daily spreadsheet tasks. AutoFill in Excel is a popular feature, and I'm sure most of you already use it.

However, it may be a new fact for you that it's not only about copying values down a column or getting a series of numbers or dates. It's also about creating custom lists, double-clicking to populate a large range and much more. If you know where the fill handle is located, it's high time to find out all the benefits it stores.

Use AutoFill in Excel to automatically fill a series of cells.

This page contains many easy to follow AutoFill examples.

1. For example, enter the value 10 into cell A1 and the value 20 into cell A2.1. For example, enter the value 10 into cell A1 and the value 20 into cell A2.

2. Select cell A1 and cell A2 and drag the fill handle down. The fill handle is the little green box at the lower right of a selected cell or selected range of cells.

Note: AutoFill automatically fills in the numbers based on the pattern of the first two numbers.

3. Enter Jan into cell A1.

4. Select cell A1 and drag the fill handle down. AutoFill automatically fills in the month names.

5. Enter Product 1 into cell A1.

6. Select cell A1 and drag the fill handle down. AutoFill automatically fills in the product names.

7. Enter Friday into cell A1.

8. Select cell A1 and drag the fill handle down. AutoFill automatically fills in the day names.

9. Enter the date 1/14/2019 into cell A1.

10. Select cell A1 and drag the fill handle down. AutoFill automatically fills in the days.

11. Instead of filling in days, use the AutoFill options to fill in weekdays (ignoring weekend days), months (see example below) or years.

Note: also see the options to fill the formatting only and to fill a series without formatting.

12. Enter the date 1/14/2019 into cell A1 and the date 1/21/2019 into cell A2.

13. Select cell A1 and cell A2 and drag the fill handle down. AutoFill automatically fills in the dates based on the pattern of the first two dates.

14. Enter the time 6:00 AM into cell A1.

15. Select cell A1 and drag the fill handle across. AutoFill automatically fills in the times.

Use AutoFill Excel option to populate a range in Excel 2010-2013 and lower

Whether you just want to copy the same value down or need to get a series of numbers or text values, fill handle in Excel is the feature to help. It's an irreplaceable part of the AutoFill option. Fill handle is a small square that appears in the bottom-right corner when you select a cell or range.

It may be hard to believe that this tiny, almost unnoticeable part of selection gives you numerous helpful options to use every day.

The scheme is simple. Whenever you need to get a series of values in the adjacent cells, just click on the Excel fill handle to see a small black cross and drag it vertically or horizontally. As you release the mouse button, you will see the selected cells filled with the values depending on the pattern you specify.

One of the most popular questions is how to autofill numbers is Excel. This can also be dates, times, days of the week, months, years and so on. In addition, Excel's AutoFill will follow any pattern.

For example, if you need to continue a sequence, just enter the first two values into the starting cell and grab the fill handle to copy the data across the specified range.

You can also auto-populate any arithmetic progression sequence where the difference between numbers is constant.

It will even alternate sequences if the selected cells don't relate to each other numerically, like on the picture below.

And it goes without saying, that you can use the AutoFill option to copy a value across your range. I think you already know how to make the same value appear in the adjacent cells in Excel. You just need to enter this number, text, or their combination, and drag it across the cells using the fill handle.

Presume you have already heard of the features I described above. I still believe, some of them appeared new to you. So go on reading to learn even more about this popular yet under-explored tool.

All AutoFill Excel options - see the fill handle at its best

Double-click to automatically populate a large range

Suppose you have a huge database with names. You need to assign a serial number to each name. You can do it in a flash by entering the first two numbers and double-clicking the Excel fill handle.

Excel - Fill down a series of values that contain text

It's not a problem for the AutoFill option to copy across the values that contain both text and numerical values. Moreover, Excel is quite smart to know that there are only 4 quarters or that some ordinal numbers need the corresponding letter suffixes.

Create custom list series for autofilling

If you use the same list every now and then, you can save it as a custom one and make Excel fill handle populate cells with the values from your custom list automatically. Please follow the steps below to do this:

  1. Enter the header and complete your list.

    Note. A custom list can only contain text or text with numerical values. If you need it to store only numbers, please create a list of digits formatted as text.

  2. Select the range with your list.

  3. In Excel 2003 go to Tools -> Options -> Custom Lists tab.

    In Excel 2007 click on the Office button -> Excel options -> Advanced -> scroll down till you see the Edit Custom Lists… button in the General section.

    In Excel 2010-2013 click File -> Options -> Advanced -> scroll to the General section to find the Edit Custom Lists… button.

  4. Since you already selected the range with your list, you will see its address in the Import list from cells: field.

  5. Press the Import button to see your series in the Custom Lists window.

  6. Finally click OK -> OK to save the list.

    When you need to get this list autofilled, enter the name of the header into the necessary cell. Excel will recognize the item and when you drag the fill handle in Excel across your range, it will populate it with the values from your list.

Use the AutoFill option to get repeating series

If you need a series of recurring values, you can still use the fill handle. For example, you need to repeat YES, NO, TRUE, FALSE sequence. First, enter all these values manually to give Excel a pattern. Then just grab the fill handle and drag it to the necessary cell.

Autofilling horizontally and vertically

Most likely, you use AutoFill to populate cells down a column. However, this feature also works if you need to extend a range horizontally, leftward or upward. Just select the cells with the value(s) and drag the fill handle to the needed direction.

Autofill multiple rows or columns

The Excel Autofill can deal with data in more than one row or column. If you pick two, three or more cells and drag the fill handle they all will be populated.

Insert empty cells when filling down a series

AutoFill also enables you to create a series with empty cells like on the screenshot below.

Use AutoFill Options list to fine tune the way the data is entered

You can adjust the settings with the help of the AutoFill Options list to get the exact results. There are two ways to get this list.

  1. Right-click on the fill handle, drag and drop it. Then you will see a list with options automatically pop up like on the screenshot below:

    Let's see what these options offer.

    • Copy Cells - populates a range with the same value.
    • Fill Series - works if you select more than one cell and the values are different. AutoFill will generate the range according to a given pattern.
    • Fill Formatting Only - this Excel AutoFill option will only get the format of the cell(s) without pulling any values. It can be helpful if you need to quickly copy the formatting and then enter the values manually.
    • Fill Without Formatting - copies values only. If the background of the starting cells is red, the option will not preserve it.
    • Fill Days / Weekdays / Months / Years - these features do what their names suggest. If your starting cell contains one of those, you can quickly have it complete the range by clicking one of the options.
    • Linear Trend - creates a linear series or linear best-fit trend.
    • Growth Trend - generates a growth series or geometric growth trend.
    • Flash Fill - helps you enter plenty of repetitive information and format your data in the right way.
    • Series … - this option pops up the Series dialog box with a number of advanced possibilities to choose from.

  2. The other way to get the list is to click on the fill handle, drag and drop it and then click on the Auto Fill Options icon.

    When you click on this icon you get a list with AutoFill options.

This list just repeats some features from the previous part.

#How To#Tutorial#Range#AutoFill

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