Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Office 365. 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 30, 2022)

1

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, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Office 365. 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

Deleting a Header

Each new Excel worksheet contains a page header, by default. Follow this tip to get rid of headers you don't need.

Discover More

Calculating the Day of the Year

Need to know what day of the year a certain date is? You can figure it out easily using the formulas in this tip.

Discover More

Sorting ZIP Codes

Sorting ZIP Codes can be painless, provided all the codes are formatted the same. Here's how to do the sorting if you ...

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)

Jumping to a Range

Need a quick way to jump to a particular part of your worksheet? You can do it by using the Go To dialog box.

Discover More

Can't Copy Data between Workbooks

Edit a group of workbooks at the same time and you probably will find yourself trying to copy information from one of ...

Discover More

Getting Rid of Spaces in Cells

Importing data into Excel that was generated in other programs can have some interesting side effects. For instance, you ...

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}] (all 7 characters, in the sequence shown) 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 2 + 4?

2022-05-02 05:45:39

Willy Vanhaelen

When the cell at the right and/or the left of an empty cell in a column has data Excel considers this cell not as an empty cell for AutoComplete. Consequently this empty cell becomes part of the contiguous range in the column.

So, in this tip's example, A15 being empty, but B15 has data, AutoComplete will look for a match in the entire range A1 through A23 when you start typing an entry in cell A24.


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.