Copying Formulas with the Excel Fill Handle

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  • 0:00 So Many Formulas
  • 1:00 Copying Using the Fill Handle
  • 1:48 Keeping the Formulas Straight
  • 3:02 Other Uses
  • 4:04 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught history, and has an MA in Islamic law/finance. He has since founded his own financial advice firm, Newton Analytical.

One of the beautiful things about Excel is its ability to handle plenty of complex formulas. In this lesson, we learn how to make using those formulas a little bit easier by using the fill handle to avoid having to type them over and over again.

So Many Formulas

Let's say that you've stayed up all night writing a complex set of formulas in Excel to describe the development of a set of data across various parameters. In your model of this company's business for a particular item, you've ran literally every example that you think that it is practical to include. Finally, after many cups of coffee, hours without sleep, and wondering about the value of leaving the corporate world to go sail around the Caribbean (hey, we've all been there!), you finally have completed the forecast. There's just one little thing. Your boss just walked in and apparently forgot to mention that those formulas need to be written for the entire line of products sold by this company. Do you break down? Do you throw a stapler at the wall? Fortunately, you get to look like the employee of the month because you're one mouse movement away from fulfilling that request. In this lesson, we'll learn how to use the fill handle to copy all of those formulas for new numbers.

Copying Using the Fill Handle

Perhaps copying isn't the word I should use, because if you were to use a keyboard shortcut to apply these formulas to a new line of formulas, you'd have to go through and individually change each of the values to correspond with the cells that your data should be drawn from. That is a pain. Instead, by using the fill handle and a little logic, it will largely take care of itself.

But wait, where's the fill handle? If you highlight a cell, you'll notice a little square on the lower right hand corner. If you drag it with your mouse, it will either select rows moving horizontally or vertically away from the original cell. That square is the fill handle. When you drag the handle, it will copy the formulas for cells in whatever relative direction you move.

Keeping the Formulas Straight

So wait, what do I mean by relative direction? I mean, that if your original data to be manipulated by a formula is in one cell, and you use the fill handle on a different cell, it will draw data from the adjacent cell. Still confused?

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