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
Click the “Data” tab on the ribbon at the top of the Excel window.
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.
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.
When we click “Enter” on the keyboard, which takes us to the cell below, Excel now shows all surnames in the correct place.
Click “Enter” to accept, and Flash Fill will automatically fill in the rest of the cells in this column.
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.
Click and drag to select both cells.
Find the square at the bottom right of the cell and drag it down. You can drag it as far as you want.
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.
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.
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.