Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. If you are using an earlier version (Excel 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Excel, click here: Understanding AutoComplete.

Understanding AutoComplete

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated April 9, 2016)

13

Excel includes a handy timesaving feature called AutoComplete. This feature can save you time when you are entering lots of similar information in a column. You may already have noticed this feature before—when you start to type something in a cell, Excel tries to guess what you are typing and shows a "match" that you can accept simply by pressing Enter.

The "matches" that Excel uses in its "guess" are nothing but the contents of the cells in the column above where you are making your entry. For instance, if you have information in cells A1 through A6 and you are entering a value in cell A7, Excel looks at what you are typing. If the first few characters uniquely match something in any of the six cells previously entered in the column, then Excel offers to AutoComplete A7 with the contents of the cell that matched.

Excel only tries to match your new entry with immediately adjacent cells above the one in which you are entering the information. It stops trying to match entries when a blank cell is reached. For instance, suppose you have information in cells A1 through A14 and A16 through A23. When you start typing an entry in cell A24, Excel only tries to match it with values in A16 through A23; the blank cell at A15 halts the comparisons.

In addition, Excel does not try to match with cells that contain only numbers, dates, or times. The cells must contain either text or a combination of text and numbers.

For some people, AutoComplete can be annoying rather than timesaving. If you want to turn off the AutoComplete feature, follow these steps:

  1. Display the Excel Options dialog box. (In Excel 2007 click the Office button and then click Excel Options. In later versions of Excel display the File tab of the ribbon and then click Options.)
  2. At the left side of the dialog box click Advanced. (See Figure 1.)
  3. Figure 1. The advanced options of the Excel Options dialog box.

  4. Clear the check box named Enable AutoComplete for Cell Values.
  5. Click on OK.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (6262) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Understanding AutoComplete.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Displaying the Ruler

The ubiquitous ruler appears at the top of every Word document. It is so common place, that you may forget that it is ...

Discover More

Selecting a Column or Row in a Table

Selecting rows and columns in tables is a common task. Because of this, Word provides a couple of ways you can accomplish ...

Discover More

Searching for a Value Using a Function

Searching for a value using Excel's Find tool is easy; searching for that same value using a formula or a macro is more ...

Discover More

Comprehensive VBA Guide Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) is the language used for writing macros in all Office programs. This complete guide shows both professionals and novices how to master VBA in order to customize the entire Office suite for their needs. Check out Mastering VBA for Office 2010 today!

More ExcelTips (ribbon)

Deleting Everything Up to a Character Sequence

Sometimes you have too much information in a cell and you need to "pare down" what is there to get to the info you really ...

Discover More

Viewing Your Work Full-Screen

Want to use the maximum space possible for displaying information on screen? You'll want to learn how to use the ...

Discover More

Trimming Off All Spaces

The easy way to get rid of spaces at the beginning or end of a cell's contents is to use the TRIM function. ...

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.

Comments

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is eight more than 6?

2018-03-14 17:16:33

Peter Kirkpatrick

@JenniferK,
Basic answer: No. Try this:
1. In A1, type "New York". Hit Enter.
2. In A2, type the letter n, lower case, and hit enter. You will get "New York" as in A1.
3. In A3, type the letter N, capital, and hit enter. Same result.

There are other subtleties, but the basic point is that for data entry you don't need to type a capital to autofill a word beginning with a capital letter.


2018-02-20 00:59:19

Jennifer K

My co-worker and I are in a heated debate... is AutoComplete case sensitive? I say it is not, and that even if it is they should come into this decade and type in mixed case. She says "When others go to input on it (the worksheet in question), it won’t auto populate because you aren’t typing in all caps and makes it more time consuming." So here I am asking the experts... Is AutoComplete case sensitive?


2017-01-07 12:21:14

Jose

Is there a way for autocomplete to be applied in the the sheets you are working on? Example, I am working on 7 sheets. In the first sheet, when I have already typed in some words, autocomplete works great. But when working on a different sheet, sheet 2 and on, autocomplete doesn't work. Is there a way to turn it on for all the sheets?


2016-09-23 19:42:14

Peter

Shivam

Hypothetical, I want a shortcut to type 'Liverpool Labour Party'

In 2007 choose Home, Options, Proofing, Auto Correct options

In the Replace type llp in With type Liverpool Labour Party

Click ok and close.

In the Spreadsheet type llp and press tab or enter to leave the cell.

Excel completes the entry for you

hth


2016-09-22 00:31:38

shivam singhal

Hi,
I want to repeat the words like
If i press only first word of any word so xl match complete automatic.

Please If you know. let me know???


2016-04-12 05:57:51

Louis Farrell

@Willy
Agreed. However, it is sufficient to have a value in a diagonal cell, e.g. below all cells except D1 and A7 will AutoComplete.

I should have said: "if any column have values in every cell, all the other columns will AutoComplete".

A B C D
1 aaa
2 aaa
3 aaa
4 aaa
5 bbb
6 bbb
7 bbb
8 bbb


2016-04-11 11:09:06

Willy Vanhaelen

@Louis Farrell

Aa I already explained in my post of yesterday, the auto complete works for the entire range if an ajacent cell to the empty one(s) is not blank.

So in your example it is not necessary that the entire range A1 to A23 has a value but only either A15 or C15 is sufficient for AutoComplete to examine the entire range B1 to B23.


2016-04-11 11:06:28

Becky

If the value you want to enter is the same as the value in the cell immediately above, press Ctrl and d (for ditto)


2016-04-11 02:21:08

Louis Farrell

Excel actually considers the text in adjacent columns to determine which cells to use for AutoComplete. For instance, suppose you have information in cells B1 through B14 and B16 through B23, and information in all the cells from A1 to A23. When you start typing an entry in cell B24, all the cells above B24 (B1 to B23) will be used for AutoComplete. This is quite useful, as all you need is one column with values in each cell (even a space will do).


2016-04-10 08:31:44

Willy Vanhaelen

This limitation also does not apply when the adjacent cell to the left or the right of the the blank cell is not empty.

If as in the example of this tip cell A15 is blank but B15 is not, AutoComplete will reference the entire range (A3:1-A23) when entering information into A24.


2016-04-09 10:41:22

Jerry

There's a nice little trick associated with AutoComplete that is really handy when entering repetitious data. Instead of starting to type the entry, press Alt+DownArrow and select the value from the drop-down list of previous values entered in the column (up to a blank cell). This is a keyboard shortcut for right-clicking in the cell and selecting "Pick from drop-down list".
Another shortcut: If the value you want to enter is the same as the value in the cell immediately above, press Ctrl+' (the single quotation mark).


2016-04-09 07:09:35

Sabir Nazeer

Excellent
Amzing/ so easy & so usefully.
V.Nice Short Cut usning in Daily Report

K-Electric Company
Dy: Dir:


2016-04-09 05:57:04

Mike Davies

Thanks for this - and everything else of course.

Is there anyway that you can overcome the limited look up parameters of auto-complete, for instance, so it references a range rather than the cells immediately above (up to a blank cell)?

regards
Mike


This Site

Got a version of Excel that uses the ribbon interface (Excel 2007 or later)? This site is for you! If you use an earlier version of Excel, visit our ExcelTips site focusing on the menu interface.

Newest Tips
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.