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: Making AutoComplete Work for an Entire Column.

Making AutoComplete Work for an Entire Column

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated May 23, 2020)

2

The AutoComplete feature in Excel can be a great boon for data entry, making it very easy to enter multiple instances of the same text in a column. One of the constraints on the AutoComplete feature is that it only works on contiguous ranges of cells in a column. For instance, if you have data in cells B7 through B25, then AutoComplete will work just fine if you are entering data in cell B6 or B26. It will not, however, work in cells B5 or B27 if cells B6 or B26 are left empty.

The only way to get around this limitation is to make sure that you have something in every single cell in the range. Some people put characters, such as periods, in the cells they otherwise would have left blank. The problem with this, of course, is that the periods show up on a printout, and need to be removed as a final step of creating your worksheet.

A better approach is to use a non-printing character in the otherwise blank cells. Instead of a period, use a space. Better yet, you can use a 0 (zero) value. You can then instruct Excel to suppress the display of zeros in the display.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (11106) 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: Making AutoComplete Work for an Entire Column.

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 one minus 1?

2020-05-23 13:03:10

J. Woolley

@Willy Vanhaelen
Thank you for explaining that. It makes AutoComplete much more useful.

@Allen
When you re-post an earlier Tip, it would be useful to include the earlier comments.


2020-05-23 11:06:07

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, B7 and B25 being empty, AutoComplete will work if cell A7 or C7 and A25 or C25 have data.


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