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Automatically fill Excel cells with Flash Fill and Auto Fill



The official Microsoft Excel logo on a gray background

Many of the tasks you complete in Microsoft Excel are tedious. Fortunately, Excel has several features that make these types of spreadsheets bearable. We’ll look at two of them: Flash Fill and Auto Fill.

How to Use Flash Fill in Excel

Fast fill can automatically detect patterns in data and help you fill cells quickly.

For example, if we start with a list of full names (first and last), but then decide we should have split them into separate columns, Flash Fill can automate much of the work.

To begin with, let̵

7;s assume we have a list of names. In the column where you want to place the first names, type only the first name from the first cell.

first name only

Click the “Data” tab on the ribbon at the top of the Excel window.

data tab

Then click the “Quick Fill” button in the Data Tools section.

As you can see, Excel has detected the pattern and Flash Fill has filled the rest of our cells in this column with just the first name.

filled first names

From here, now that Excel knows our pattern, it should show you a preview as you type. Try this: in the next cell where you typed the first name, type in the corresponding last name.

add last name

When we click “Enter” on the keyboard, which takes us to the cell below, Excel now shows all surnames in the correct place.

automatic filling

Click “Enter” to accept, and Flash Fill will automatically fill in the rest of the cells in this column.

auto-fill last name

How to Use Autofill in Excel

Autofill works a bit like Flash Fill, although it’s better suited for tasks that require a lot of cells. It is also better for cells with an even clearer pattern, such as numbers. Let’s type in a few numbers to see how it works.

select cells

Click and drag to select both cells.

select cells

Find the square at the bottom right of the cell and drag it down. You can drag it as far as you want.

find the box at the bottom right

Excel recognized the pattern and filled all the cells below as you instructed.

But this doesn’t just work for numbers. Autofill is great for all kinds of patterns, such as days and months. Let’s type a few to get started.

add months

Just like in the previous example, if we click on the bottom right box and drag it down, Excel will fill all the cells below with the AutoFill feature.

more months

Using Flash Fill and Auto Fill are two easy ways to automate your work in Excel, as long as it has a clear pattern.

While Excel sometimes surprises us with its ability to detect more complex patterns, it’s not something you can count on. Stick to simple things for the best, most consistent results.




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