Excel How-to: Automatically increment cells (Autofill)

excel logoLet's say you want to enter a series or range of values in cells in Excel, but you don't want to manually type in each one. For example, a series of numbers from 1 to 25. Or perhaps the months of the year from January to December. Maybe something more complex, like 'field 1', field 2', 'field 3', etc. Think you have to do all that typing? Think again!

The following examples all refer to Microsoft Excel 2003. If you are using a version that is different than that your screens will look slightly different, but the basic functionality should be the same.

  • Enter two sequential numbers in two adjacent cells
  • Highlight both cells
  • Move you mouse over the box in the lower right corner of the selected cells until you see the cross cursor:

Autofill cells Excel 01

  • Now, click the left mouse button and hold it down
  • While holding down the mouse button, drag down about 10 cells

Autofill cells Excel 02

  • You can do the same with days of the week, months of the year, and basically any other item where Excel can figure out what you're trying to accomplish. With some of these (like days of the week) you only need to enter in single item:

Autofill cells Excel 03

  • And do the same as above:

Autofill cells Excel 04

  • You might be surprised by what Excel will figure out to AutoFill, if you give it a couple of examples:

Autofill cells Excel 05

  • Drag down, and you'll usually get the results you expect:

Autofill cells Excel 06

Try it on any items that be thought of in a sequence. You'll need to enter 2 or 3 examples to get it started, but you'll be surprised how often Excel will figure it out for you and save you some typing!