Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Excel 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Excel, click here: Making AutoComplete Work for an Entire Column.

Making AutoComplete Work for an Entire Column

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated July 12, 2017)


The AutoComplete feature in Excel can be a great boon for data entry, making it very easy to enter multiple instances of the same text in a column. One of the constraints on the AutoComplete feature is that it only works on contiguous ranges of cells in a column. For instance, if you have data in cells B7 through B25, then AutoComplete will work just fine if you are entering data in cell B6 or B26. It will not, however, work in cells B5 or B27 if cells B6 or B26 are left empty.

The only way to get around this limitation is to make sure that you have something in every single cell in the range. Some people put characters, such as periods, in the cells they otherwise would have left blank. The problem with this, of course, is that the periods show up on a printout, and need to be removed as a final step of creating your worksheet.

A better approach is to use a non-printing character in the otherwise blank cells. Instead of a period, use a space. Better yet, you can use a 0 (zero) value. You can then instruct Excel to suppress the display of zeros in the display.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (1986) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Excel (Excel 2007 and later) here: Making AutoComplete Work for an Entire Column.

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 five minus 0?

2017-01-07 03:07:28

Fred Fernandes

Hi Wyatt,

I'm a first timer to your tips page, and boy, It's fantastic. It's not only very helpful, but very comprehensive too!

I wanted info on the Auto Fill option and got my answer, but it did not really solve my problem. Then I looked further down and was tolt to fill blank cells with a space or 0, and Viola, my featue reached to the cells I wanted!

I thank you for yourn effort in helping us laymen to better utilise the program. You and your kind are God's ambassadors to help those in need. We all are ready to take, but rarely wish or make any effort to give back to the world. I love and salute you

2016-09-28 21:22:28


Thanks so much. Just pasted a space into all the blank cells.

2015-02-16 05:47:04



Can you please help me to find out excel 2010 below problem.

When i try to use Ctrl+F and search any word in excel, then if i continue my search to next word, and in case i try to just click on my previous search, i can see history of words in this find and replace dialog box but if i click on any word, it will not display in the search area.
please check and suggest, i already try to repair, Microsoft, and also try to scan my computer, and in the excel advance > auto complete option is also checked , also try to check thru regedit > making it 9.

any help ??????????

2012-05-04 19:54:11

Ed Westenberger

I have inserted spaces above and below the useful text (within a column). I find that Excel has a limitation of 50 rows relative to Auto Complete. If this is a Variable/Constant within Excel, I would like to know how to extend this to about 300 (this is the useful range of the list for my application.)
Thank you,
Ed Westenberger

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