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: Using AutoComplete with Disjointed Lists.

Using AutoComplete with Disjointed Lists

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated April 18, 2015)


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.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (9427) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, and 2013. 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 six more than 8?

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


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.

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