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.

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.

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 three less than 6?

2017-06-09 09:26:36

Dennis Costello

The "pattern" exploited by the auto-fill functionality is also affected by the fill direction. When filling to the right or down, the values are incremented; when filling up or to the left, they're decremented.

And the Ctrl key plays a part: If the cell is formatted General or some variation of number (including currency), pressing Ctrl while doing the auto fill will flip the fill from "copy the same value" to "increment the value by 1". And as has been noted elsewhere, a text value that ends with a digit will also increment the value: if you're filling starting from a single cell whose value is "x 1", the default auto fill result is for the other cells to contain "x 2", "x 3", etc. - but if the Ctrl key is held down when you release the mouse button, they'll all be filled with "x 1". The reverse is true if the starting cell contains a number: start with 5, and all the cells will be filled with a 5 unless the Ctrl key is down when you release the mouse button; in the "Ctrl case", the cells will be filled with 5, 6, 7, etc.

If the initial value is 1.1, the series will be 1.1, 2.1, 3.1, etc. An interesting corollary to all this is a fractional number formatted as text: if the initial value is the text string 1.8, the series will be 1.8, 1.9, 1.10, 1.11, etc. Switching these back to numbers will of course mess up the situation because the "1.10" will be interpreted as 1.1, which of course is smaller than 1.9.

You get used to all the weird results, and they do make sense. Fortunately, Excel shows the value of the last element of the series as you're dragging the mouse around, warning you that you might want to press (or release) Ctrl to get the results you want.

2016-04-26 05:28:58

Des Lavender

Interesting Lori, it skips the weekend dates without skipping rows.

2016-04-25 13:10:16


Right-clicking and dragging the fill handle will give you a menu with additional fill options as well. Including an option to fill dates for weekdays only.

2016-04-25 10:44:39


Can you use fill if you only want to show the dates of the month for Monday thru Friday but skip Sat. & Sun?

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