Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. 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: Skipping Rows when Filling.
by Allen Wyatt
(last updated April 23, 2016)
Bill noted that he can use the fill handle to fill a range of cells with values, such as 1, 2, 3, 4, etc. What he wants to do, however, is to drag the fill handle and have Excel fill every other row with a value, leaving every other row blank, such as 1, blank, 2, blank, 3, blank, 4, etc. He can't seem to make it work, however.
There are a couple of ways that you can do this, all using the fill handle. The important thing to remember is that you need to (1) establish a pattern and (2) select the cells that represent the pattern before you begin dragging the fill handle.
For instance, if you want to fill a range with incrementing numbers, you could fill cell A1 with 1 and cell A2 with 2, select both cells, and then drag. The two cells establish a pattern, you selected the cells, and then Excel was able to determine what you wanted to do.
What if you fill cell A1 with 1, leave cell A2 blank, put 2 in cell A3, and then select all three cells before dragging the fill handle? You won't get what you may expect because the three cells don't establish the pattern you want. Instead, you need to leave cell A4 blank and then select the range A1:A4 before dragging. This establishes the pattern you want: number, blank, number, blank. Excel will then give you the type of fill you want.
Interestingly enough, Excel has a quirk that you can exploit when doing your filling. If you put a 1 into cell A1, select that cell, and drag downward, Excel assumes that you want to fill each cell with the number 1. However, if you put 1 into cell A1, leave cell A2 blank, select the two cells, and then drag downward, Excel assumes you want to increment the value and leave every other cell blank. So, you end up with 1, blank, 2, blank, 3, blank, etc. And therein lays the quirk: Excel assumes no increment in one fill yet assumes an increment in the other.
ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (11975) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Skipping Rows when Filling.
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