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: Using AutoComplete with Disjointed Lists.

Using AutoComplete with Disjointed Lists

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated January 4, 2021)

4

The AutoComplete feature of Excel is pretty handy. When you are entering information into a cell, it automatically provides you with a list of the previous entries in the column that match what you've typed. Thus, if you type the letter T, then it lists all those entries starting with T. When you type the second letter, R, then it reduces the list to all those entries starting with TR.

There is a limit to AutoComplete, however: It will only search for matches in the column until it hits a blank cell. For instance, if you have values in the cells in A3:A17 and in A19:A26 (cell A18 is blank), then when you start to enter information in cell A27, only the entries in the range A19:A26 are used to display the AutoComplete list.

If you want to have Excel use everything in the full range (A3:A26) as fodder for the AutoComplete list, then there is no way around it—you will need to enter something in the blank cell (A18). A good choice is, perhaps, a single character, like a minus sign, an x, or a z. Select A18, type your character, and then press Enter. The cell now contains something, so AutoComplete will reference the entire range (A3:A26) when entering information into A27.

It is interesting to note that the limitation of a blank cell in the column doesn't apply when the adjacent cell to the left or right of the blank cell is not empty.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (9427) 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: Using AutoComplete with Disjointed Lists.

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

Jumping Between Fields

Need to step through the fields in a document? It's easy using the shortcuts detailed in this tip.

Discover More

Opening Only a Merge Document

After merging the information from a data source into a document, you may decide that you only want to open the merge ...

Discover More

Picking a Starting Label

If you use the Labels feature in Word, you may want to specify which label to use as the starting point when printing. ...

Discover More

Excel Smarts for Beginners! Featuring the friendly and trusted For Dummies style, this popular guide shows beginners how to get up and running with Excel while also helping more experienced users get comfortable with the newest features. Check out Excel 2013 For Dummies today!

More ExcelTips (ribbon)

Automatically Moving from Cell to Cell when Entering Data

As you enter data in a worksheet, you may want to have Excel automatically move from cell to cell based on the length of ...

Discover More

Copying a Cell without Formatting

When you are copying a cell from one place to another (perhaps even to a different worksheet), you may not want to copy ...

Discover More

Removing Cells from a Selected Range

Select a large range of cells and you may later want to remove a few cells from that selection. This is not as easy as ...

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 five more than 5?

2015-04-20 03:44:44

Des Lavender

Wow, yes. If the cell adjacent to the blank cell isn't blank then the whole of the current column is available for auto-complete.


2015-04-18 16:49:22

Dale

I have found that using "ZZZ" or "zzz" as a placeholder in Excel or Word is quite useful.

No valid English word has 3 consecutive Z's in it so you won't face the possibility of an inadvertent legitimate use of it in the worksheet or document.

It also is easy to use the Search & Replace function later to remove it or substitute another common placeholder.


2015-04-18 06:11:55

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 A18 is blank but B18 is not, AutoComplete will reference the entire range (A3:A26) when entering information into A27


2015-04-18 04:53:24

Khushnood Viccaji

This limitation does not apply if you are using auto-complete in a column within an Excel Table.


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.