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: Understanding AutoComplete.

Understanding AutoComplete

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated July 21, 2012)

Excel includes a handy time-saving feature called AutoComplete. This feature can save you time when you are entering lots of similar information in a column. You may already have noticed this feature before—when you start to type something in a cell, Excel tries to guess what you are typing and shows a "match" that you can accept simply by pressing Enter.

The "matches" that Excel uses in its "guess" is nothing but the contents of the cells in the column, above where you are making your entry. For instance, if you have information in cells A1 through A6 and you are entering a value in cell A7, Excel looks at what you are typing. If the first few characters uniquely match something in any of the six cells previously entered in the column, then Excel offers to AutoComplete A7 with the contents of the cell that matched.

Excel only tries to match your new entry with immediately adjacent cells above the one in which you are entering the information. It stops trying to match entries when a blank cell is reached. For instance, suppose you have information in cells A1 through A14 and A16 through A23. When you start typing an entry in cell A24, Excel only tries to match it with values in A16 through A23; the blank cell at A15 halts the comparisons.

In addition, Excel does not try to match with cells that contain only numbers, dates, or times. The cells must contain either text or a combination of text and numbers.

For some people, AutoComplete can be annoying rather than time-saving. If you want to turn off the AutoComplete feature, follow these steps:

  1. Choose Options from the Tools menu. Excel displays the Options dialog box.
  2. Make sure the Edit tab is displayed. (See Figure 1.)
  3. Figure 1. The Edit tab of the Options dialog box.

  4. Clear the check box named Enable AutoComplete for Cell Values.
  5. Click on OK.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2110) 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: Understanding AutoComplete.

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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