Cell Filling Shortcuts in Excel

In this post, you’ll see how to quickly fill series of data and formulas in a spreadsheet.

To enter in data that have a regular interval, you can enter in just the first few values. Excel will recognize the pattern and extrapolate down the table. For example, to fill in a column from 0-20 with an interval of 2, enter in the first two values. Select those cells, then drag down the square in the lower right corner:

This square is called the “fill handle.” As you drag the fill handle down, Excel will show you the predicted value for each cell just to the right of your cursor:

Drag the fill handle down until you reach the last value you need, then release the mouse button. Excel will automatically fill the data in following the pattern of your first few cells.

You can follow a similar procedure for filling formulas into a series of cells. In this example, we’ll enter in the formula to calculate acceleration, using the mass found in another data table on the same sheet. The reference to mass is an absolute reference. Absolute references are explained in greater detail in Chapter 3, Section 2. For now, you can just enter in the formula and press F4 after you select the cell for mass.

Just as above, you can drag the fill handle down to fill the formula down, allowing you to quickly calculate acceleration for all the force data. However, there’s a faster way to do this when the column containing the formula is adjacent to another column of data.

After entering the formula into the first cell, hover the cursor over the fill handle and hold down the Shift key. This causes the cursor to change to an icon with upward and downward arrows:

If you double-click while that icon is showing (holding Shift), Excel automatically fills the formula to the same number of cells as the column directly to its left. This is a fast way to fill in data, especially if the column is very long.

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By Charlie Young, P.E.

Take your engineering to the next level with advanced Excel skills.