Custom Lists And AutoFill In Microsoft Excel

Excels AutoFill feature relies on the programs ability to recognize patterns in the data that you enter. For example, if you type Week 1 in a cell, you can have the program automatically fill in Week 2, Week 3, etc. by using the AutoFill handle. This is located in the bottom right of the cell. As the cursor moves over it, the cursor changes appearance to a plus sign (+). When it does so you simply click, hold, drag in any direction and Excel will pick up the pattern and extrapolate it to create automatic data entries.

Whenever you use the AutoFill handle Excel displays the AutoFill Options drop down menu just below the last cell which has been automatically generated. If the program has not entered the correct data, you can choose one of the entries in the AutoFill Options to tell it what you actually meant it to do. For example, if you choose Copy Cells, you simply get an exact copy of what was in the original cell.

Excel also has the ability to automatically enter arbitrary series of data using a feature called Custom Lists. Certain lists are built into Excel, for example, the months of the year. To use the AutoFill feature, enter the first value in the list, for example, Jan or January. Next drag the AutoFill handle (located in the bottom right of the active cell) in any direction to automatically enter the rest of the custom list.

In addition to these built-in lists Excel allows you to create your own custom lists. For example, suppose we worked for a company that has branches in several towns. Its almost certain that we would list these towns quite frequently in our spreadsheets. We could therefore save ourselves considerable time by setting this up as a custom list.

To do this, simply select cells in one of your worksheets that contain the information. Next, click on the Office button and choose Excel options. Click on Edit Custom Lists in the Popular category. Excel displays the contents of the cells that we highlighted. To convert the selected data into a custom list, we simply click on the Import button.

Once youve created a custom list, it can be used in any of your worksheets, not just the sheet that contained the original information. To generate the entries in the list, simply type the first value. Next, drag the AutoFill handle to conjure up the remaining entries.
When using this facility, we can drag in any direction and we dont have to start with the first member of the custom list.

Custom lists can also be created directly in the Custom Lists dialog box. To do this, click on the List Entries button and type the entries separated by a carriage return. When youve finished entering the list, click on the Add button.

To delete a custom list, simply click on it and click on the Delete button. Excel verifies that you want to delete the list and when you click OK, the list is gone.

The author is a trainer and developer with Macresource Computer Training, an independent computer training company offering Excel training courses in London and throughout the UK.

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