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

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated October 16, 2021)
This tip applies to Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Microsoft 365


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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. ...

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What is 9 + 9?

2023-08-21 13:00:10

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, A18 being empty, but B18 has data, AutoComplete will look for a match in the entire range A3 through A26 when you start typing an entry in cell A27.


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.


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