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 eight less than 8?

2020-09-14 18:06:59


My, my...

Another weird bit. Value up some cells down a column, and to the left of a column. Say cells Q13:Q15 and M13:Q13. Then highlight Q13 and try two things (use UNDO in the middle). 1) Press SHIFT as you grab the Fill handle (note the symbol now looks like a row height might get adjusted) and tug it down some rows, say five. Release and it inserts five blank cells in between Q13 and Q14. No questions asked, just puts them there for you. 2) Do the same kind of thing but this time push them to the right (Fill works from up down to down, and from left over to right, so... I guess...) and tug the Fill handle left to highlight three more cells (N13:Q13), say, and release. Sure enough, three blank cells are inserted starting at N13 pushing N13's contents over three columns.

Whyever would that have seemed like an idea? I imagine it wasn't, actually, but is just an odd effect of how it does what it's really meant to do. But still... odd.

(Nice to not have to answer questions about just how I want the insertion to happen though. For at least these two kinds of insertions.)

2020-09-14 17:47:10


I'll give you another weird one, though I'm not sure how this one makes sense...

(I admit almost everything does, once you eventually see it the way some moro... um, manager... wrong "m" word for a moment, saw it once upon a time. Even DATEDIF()'s "bugs" make sense when you think of them the right way, though since they acknowledge them, even they must've thought a dum dum thought them through.)

So, enter something in a cell, and take hold of the Fill handle, no Ctrl needed. Push the handle upward toward the corner fo the cell above it (top right) and you'll see the contents dim out, the whole cell seems milky white, but I'm sure it's just the value in it, and the border takes on a light blue (with maybe some green in it) color. This works for multiple cells if you select them before grabbing the Fill handle.

Once the colors change as described, release the Fill handle. The contents are deleted. Just gone. UNDO will get them back, so nothing odd there, but a whole new way to delete contents seems to exist here. And it doesn't look to have any obvious "secret" functionality: protect the sheet and try it and it gives the usual warning about the sheet being protected rather than trumping that and deleting the contents. So, just weird, apparently.

Oh, selecting multiple cells, then the Fill handle and doing this... if you go boomp, boomp, boomp for all of them, they all get cleared. But you can choose to only do the first two, say, not all three or 30 or whatever. Just stop at the last one you want cleared.

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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