Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, and 2013. 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: AutoFilling with the Alphabet.

AutoFilling with the Alphabet

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated January 11, 2016)

4

Marlene is a teacher and she has students who love word searches. She finds it quite time consuming to make them, but the students seem to remember the course material much better when she uses them. Marlene wondered if there was some way to AutoFill a range of cells with letters of the alphabet, A through Z. That way she can use the feature to fill in the squares of the word search with letters, before she replaces some of those letters with the actual words to be searched.

The AutoFill tool in Excel has a few standard sequences it will fill automatically, such as dates and numeric sequences. The very powerful part of AutoFill, however, is that you can create custom lists that the tool uses just as easily as the built-in sequences. In order to create a custom list manually, you can follow these steps:

  1. Display the Excel Options dialog box. (In Excel 2007 click the Office button and then click Excel Options. In Excel 2010 and Excel2013 display the File tab of the ribbon and then click Options.)
  2. If you are using Excel 2007, make sure Popular is selected at the left of the dialog box. If you are using Excel 2010 or Excel 2013, click Advanced at the left of the screen and scroll down to the General area.
  3. Click Edit Custom Lists. Excel displays the Custom Lists dialog box and hides the Excel Options dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  4. Figure 1. The Custom Lists dialog box.

  5. Select the NEW LIST option from the Custom Lists list at the left of the dialog box.
  6. In the List Entries box, enter each letter of the alphabet, one letter per line. (Press Enter after each letter you type.)
  7. When you are done, click the Add button.
  8. Click OK to finish.

To use the newly created custom list, just type one or two letters you want to start the sequence with, select those cells, and use the AutoFill handle to drag over as many cells as you want to fill.

There's another way to create the custom list that may be a bit easier, just in case you don't want to type twenty-six letters in the dialog box. Instead, if you already have the letters of the alphabet in twenty-six cells, follow these steps:

  1. Select the cells containing the letters of the alphabet.
  2. Display the Excel Options dialog box. (In Excel 2007 click the Office button and then click Excel Options. In Excel 2010 and Excel2013 display the File tab of the ribbon and then click Options.)
  3. If you are using Excel 2007, make sure Popular is selected at the left of the dialog box. If you are using Excel 2010 or Excel 2013, click Advanced at the left of the screen and scroll down to the General area.
  4. Click Edit Custom Lists. Excel displays the Custom Lists dialog box and hides the Excel Options dialog box. You should also notice that the range of cells you selected in step 1 is indicated just to the left of the Import button.
  5. Click the Import button. Excel adds the contents of the selected cells as a custom list.
  6. Click OK.

Of course, there is one drawback with using a custom list, especially when it comes to creating word searches: the letters added to blank squares are always in a predictable sequence, which could make finding the actual words a bit easier than you want. To make the puzzles a bit more challenging, it would be better to fill the non-word squares with random letters.

One easy way to get random letters is to use the following formula:

=CHAR(RANDBETWEEN(65,90))

This formula works because the RANDBETWEEN function returns a random numeric value between the two boundary values provided. In this case, it will return a value between 65 and 90, which are the ASCII values of the letters A and Z, respectively. The CHAR function is then used to convert this random numeric value into an actual letter.

If you create a lot of word search puzzles, then you may want to use a macro to fill a range of cells with random letters of the alphabet. There are any number of ways that such a macro could be put together; the following is one that is particularly flexible. It will work with either a pre-selected range (a range selected when you run the macro) or you can select a range after you run the macro.

Sub AlphaFill()
    Dim Cell, CellChars
    Dim Default, Prompt, Title
    Dim rangeSelected As Range
    Dim UpperCase As Boolean

    Title = "AlphaFill Cell Selection"
    Default = Selection.Address
    Prompt = vbCrLf _
      & "Use mouse in conjunction with " _
      & "SHIFT and CTRL keys to" & vbCrLf _
      & "click and drag or type in name(s) " _
      & "of cell(s) to AlphaFill" & vbCrLf & vbCrLf _
      & "Currently selected cell(s): "
      & Selection.Address

    On Error Resume Next
    Set rangeSelected = InputBox(Prompt, Title, _
      Default, Type:=8)
    If rangeSelected Is Nothing Then Exit Sub

    UpperCase = True
    Randomize
    For Each Cell In rangeSelected
        CellChars = Chr(64 + Int((Rnd * 26) + 1))
        If Not UpperCase Then CellChars = LCase(CellChars)
        Cell.Value = CellChars
    Next
End Sub

The macro code, as written, inserts the uppercase letters into whatever range you specify. If you want to use lowercase letters instead, then all you need to do is set the UpperCase variable to False rather than True.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (7803) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, and 2013. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: AutoFilling with the Alphabet.

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. ...

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What is 6 - 3?

2016-01-11 19:57:01

Leslie Glasser

A simple way to insert capitals in a column is to use =CHAR(ROW()+64) in successive rows starting from row 1. Use 96 in place of 64 for lower case.

If you want to start in a lower row use =CHAR(64+ROW(OFFSET(A1,0,0))) where A1 can be any cell in the top row.


2016-01-11 09:21:32

Jeaux Brown

LOVE the simple tip of adding custom lists. Thank you.


2016-01-11 08:22:51

Dawn Molitor

For Marlene, the teacher, who wants to autofill alphabets for word search puzzles:

Excel is awesome, but there is a website for teachers that makes word searches and crosswords (and the answers) on the internet in just a few minutes (for free). You simply put in the words you want, and how wide and tall, and in a few seconds, you have your puzzle. You can then click on the answer sheet.
Here is the site:
http://puzzlemaker.discoveryeducation.com/WordSearchSetupForm.asp


2015-06-17 21:41:33

silvex3000


Tremendous - ABC AutoFill (AutoHotKey):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xbU-5hYgK7w

extra options:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZfPPVzH8xKQ


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