Repeating a Pattern when Copying or Filling Cells

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated April 6, 2024)
This tip applies to Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021


Todd is setting up a comic book inventory list and would like each cell in column A to contain the text "Batman (1940) 0" repeated 3 times, followed by "Batman (1940) 1" repeated three times, "Batman (1940) 2" repeated 3 times, all the way through "Batman (1940) 700" repeated 3 times. That is 2,103 individual lines, but Todd isn't sure how to go about repeating patterns like this when copying or filling cells.

There are actually a few ways you can approach a task such as this. One way is to simply create a single sequence and then copy and paste twice. Here's the general idea:

  1. Into cell A1 enter the following: Batman (1940) 0
  2. Select cell A1.
  3. Drag the fill handle down to cell A701. This should give you a complete sequence of "Batman (1940) 0" through "Batman (1940) 700", and the cells in the range should still be selected.
  4. Press Ctrl+C to copy the range to the Clipboard.
  5. Paste the range into cell A702 and then again to cell A1403.
  6. Sort Column A.

This whole process goes very quickly; I was done with it in about 45 seconds. There is a drawback, though: After sorting, you won't get the sequence of cells in numeric order based on the number at the end of the text. If you want to ensure that, you'll want to enter your first comic book (in cell A1) as "Batman (1940) 000". When you use three digits for the ending number, the sorting will come out just fine.

There's another approach you can use that relies on the fill handle, as well. Follow these general steps:

  1. Into cell A1 enter the following: Batman (1940) 0
  2. Into cell A4 enter the following: Batman (1940) 1
  3. Select cells A1:A6. (This is very important.)
  4. Drag the fill handle down to cell A2103. This should give you a complete sequence of "Batman (1940) 0" through "Batman (1940) 700" with two empty cells after each item in the sequence, and the cells in the range should still be selected.
  5. Press F5. Excel displays the Go To dialog box.
  6. Click the Special button. Excel displays the Go To Special dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  7. Figure 1. The Go To Special dialog box.

  8. Make sure the Blanks radio button is selected.
  9. Click on the OK button. Excel modifies the selection so that only the blank cells in the range are selected.
  10. In the Formula bar, type this formula: =A1
  11. Press Ctrl+Enter. This copies the formula to all the blank cells.
  12. Select cells A1:A2103.
  13. Press Ctrl+C to copy the range to the Clipboard.
  14. Use Paste Special to paste values. This converts the formulas back into values.

A third approach—one which I find very quick to accomplish—is to use a formula from the get-go:

  1. Into cell A1 enter the following formula: ="Batman (1940) "&INT((ROW()-1)/3)
  2. Select cells A1:A2103.
  3. Press Ctrl+D. The formula in cell A1 is copied to the rest of the selected range.
  4. Press Ctrl+C to copy the range to the Clipboard.
  5. Use Paste Special to paste values. (This converts the formulas back into values.)

If you need to create sequences such as this quite often, then you'll appreciate a macro-based approach. The following is simple, placing the desired text sequence into column A:

Sub ComicSequence()
    Dim sTemp As String
    Dim J As Integer
    Dim K As Integer

    sTemp = "Batman (1940) "
    For J = 0 To 700
        For K = 1 To 3
            Cells(J * 3 + K, 1).Value = sTemp & J
        Next K
    Next J
End Sub

To use a different preface to your cell values, all you need to do is to change the value you assign to the sTemp string.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (9410) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021.

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

Keeping a Document Open After Hyperlinking

A solution to Hyperlinking closing your Word document in Word 97.

Discover More

Single-Use Drop-Down List

Want to create an easy drop-down list? You can do so by using the data validation features of Excel.

Discover More

Setting the Wrapping Default for Objects

Want to have objects such as text boxes and shapes always appear using some formatting you like? Here are some ideas on ...

Discover More

Program Successfully in Excel! John Walkenbach's name is synonymous with excellence in deciphering complex technical topics. With this comprehensive guide, "Mr. Spreadsheet" shows how to maximize your Excel experience using professional spreadsheet application development tips from his own personal bookshelf. Check out Excel 2013 Power Programming with VBA today!

More ExcelTips (ribbon)

Deleting Rows Containing Struck-Through Text

Excel makes it easy to delete rows in a worksheet, but it can be more difficult to figure how to delete rows if you only ...

Discover More

Limiting the Scope of the Undo Command

As you make edits in Excel, the program remembers your actions so that you can later undo them. If you have multiple ...

Discover More

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
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 3 + 0?

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)


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.