Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Microsoft 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 October 16, 2021)

2

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 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—Excel recognizes that the blank cell is part of the list, intentionally left blank.

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 Microsoft 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

Changing the Size of a Drawing Object

Documents are often made up of more than just text. If you have drawing objects in your document, you will doubtless need ...

Discover More

Changing Table Cell Text Direction

When creating a table, you can turn the orientation of the text, within a cell, by ninety degrees in either direction ...

Discover More

Understanding Monospace Fonts

Monospace fonts allow you to easily achieve a specific "look" with your text or to line up information in a certain way. ...

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)

Merging Cells to a Single Sum

One way to make your worksheets less complex is to get rid of detail and keep only the summary of that detail. Here's how ...

Discover More

Highlighting the Rows of Selected Cells

If you lose your place on the screen quite often, you might find it helpful to have not just a single cell highlighted, ...

Discover More

Previous Column Values in a Drop-Down List

Want a quick way to add non-unique values into a column? You probably know you can do this by starting to simply type in ...

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 - 3?

2021-10-16 10:20:40

J. Woolley

From the Tip: "...then 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." The best choice might be an apostrophe ('), which looks like a blank cell but extends the AutoComplete list.


2021-10-16 09:21:40

Roy

The last paragraph, about how a column on either side that IS full in the relevant range will lead Excel into using AutoComplete in the disjointed column of interest was the best part of the Tip for me.

It neatly, and accurately(!), explains why I've seen this kind of explanation (minus the last bit) yet observed "on the ground" that sometimes when Excel seemingly should NOT autocomplete due to blank cells existing above the current one, it does anyway, and sometimes, it indeed does not.

More importantly, if AutoComplete is very important to me, but filling blank cells with "something" can cause problems, or just be a huge chore, mostly remembering to, but then still having to stop and find the ones that matter but were missed and fill them.

But if I insert a hidden column complete with, say, a space entered in one cell and copied down far enough to serve my near-future needs.

And it turns out that in a Table, Excel figures the same thing and autocomplete is available all down a column.

However, giving Excel the clue by using a Named Range including some blanks does NOT do the trick. Excel does not take the hint.


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.