Using the AutoFill Tool in Excel

Using the AutoFill Tool in Excel
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  • 0:01 The Autofill Feature
  • 0:27 Filling Data Down a Column
  • 2:31 Using the Autofill to…
  • 3:56 Filling Data Across a Row
  • 5:13 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Karen Sorensen

Karen has a Bachelors in Communications. She has 25 years of experience in Information Systems, Adult Learning and Virtual Training.

If you want to make some of your common Excel tasks a bit easier and perform them with more efficiency, AutoFill is definitely a tool you should learn how to use. This lesson will guide you through the tool and how to take advantage of its features.

The Autofill Feature

Some Excel spreadsheets can be time consuming, and some days, every minute counts. The key to using your time more efficiently when working in Excel is learning how to automate daily Excel tasks.

This lesson will discuss the AutoFill feature in Excel. You will learn how to use the tool to automatically fill in a series of numbers and how to copy data down an entire row with one double-click of your mouse.

Filling Data Down a Column

The AutoFill feature is not a command you will find under a ribbon menu. If you look in the bottom, right-hand corner of a selected cell or range of cells, you will see the fill handle. The fill handle is the small square that appears in the lower, right-hand corner when you select a cell or range. It might be tiny, but it comes with a powerful punch! You can grab (click and hold with your mouse) the fill handle to copy data down or across a selected range.

One of the most likely uses of the feature is to fill in a series of numbers (which includes dates and times). For instance, imagine you have a spreadsheet with a list of 25 clients. For reporting purposes, you would like to assign each client a number, starting with 1000. You have a column already created for the client ID.

At this point, you have two options.

  1. Type each number into each cell, one at a time. (Too time consuming for me!)
  2. Use the AutoFill feature and have the numbers automatically populate. (More my style!)

In the spreadsheet, we have the first two numbers entered, 1000 and 1001. We need to continue the number sequence down the column, adding the client ID number. Here are the steps.

  1. Enter the first two numbers of the series (you must enter at least the first two numbers).
  2. Select the two cells (in our example, this is A2 and A3).
  3. Grab the fill handle, and drag the handle down to your desired range (in our example, A26).

Shazam! How does Excel do that? The key is the first two numbers you entered. Excel looks to see if there is a pattern, (and probably runs some crazy algorithms), then fills in the numbers based on the series you already started.

Using the Autofill to Copy Data

AutoFill works great with numbers and continuing sequences. However, there is another benefit when you need to copy data down a column to the bottom of the spreadsheet.

Think about the last time you worked on a spreadsheet, and you needed to copy something from the first cell and paste it to all cells in the column, stopping at the last row of data. To make things worse, the spreadsheet is several hundred rows long. Oh, the copy and paste commands will get the job done, but you either paste the information to the wrong cells, not enough cells down the column or too many cells. Ugh! If you have ever tried to do this before, you know exactly what I mean. But, if not, consider yourself lucky that you are viewing this lesson first. The steps you learn here will save you a bit of frustration.

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