AutoFill with a Custom List in Excel


Create your Own Lists to Work with AutoFill

You may already use some of Excel’s AutoFill capabilities to complete names of months, days and years and/or to copy formulas, so you know it is an amazing time saver. Before we explore creating your own custom lists, here are a few tricks to tame the AutoFill feature:

Excel just needs to see a pattern to fill out the remaining cells. Common sequences only require one entry, such as Monday or Friday, to have the following days of the week automatically fill as you drag the icon down or across. (The Fill handle is on the bottom-right corner of the cell border – a small, black plus sign). The same is true of months or quarters. Excel automatically inserts the next entry and repeats the pattern if you continue to drag past the ending entry.

Trick: If you have data in the cells to the left of the column where you want to use the Fill handle, just double-click on the Fill symbol in the cell that you want copied, and results will fill in down through that number of rows.

Sometimes, AutoFill hiccups when you ask it to repeat a pattern, as in a numbering sequence. For instance, if you type a “1” in a cell and try to AutoFill, you will get only 1’s in the copied cells. You must put in a second number, select both cells, and then AutoFill for Excel to get the pattern. You can enter “1” in a cell and then “2” in a cell below or to the right, and you are off and running. This also works for step-numbering, i.e., enter “1” in first cell and then “5” in second cell, select both and AutoFill. (Same is true for years).

Trick: Save yourself some typing and mouse action:

  • Enter the first number
  • Hold down CTRL key, point at Fill Handle and drag down (or across)
  • Presto, you have sequential numbers (or years). For step-numbering, you still have to type and select at least two entries.

Define your own series that AutoFill can use:

You can enter any list of entries in an Excel worksheet, select the cells and drag down or across and that pattern will be repeated but if the series is one that you want to use in other worksheets or workbooks, create your own custom list:

  • Click File tab on the ribbon and click Options at the bottom of the category list.
  • Click Advanced and then scroll down near the bottom to the General area.

  • Click the button Edit Custom Lists… Excel displays the Custom Lists dialog box.

  • Select NEW LIST in the Custom Lists list.
  • In the List Entries box, start typing the items in your fill series, in the order they should appear. This could be products or department names or list of employees in alphabetical order. Press Enter after each entry.
  • When finished click the Add button.
  • Click OK to close the dialog box.
  • Click OK to close the Excel Options dialog box.

Your custom list is now set up for AutoFill. Just type an entry from that list that you want to start with, select the cell, and then drag the Fill handle. Excel fills the selected cells with the items from your custom list in the same order created.

Create as many custom lists as you like and you now have your own personal quick entries!


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