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: AutoFill Won't Work as Expected.

AutoFill Won't Work as Expected

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated April 8, 2016)

Deb is trying to AutoFill record numbers in a column of her worksheet. The first record 1, the second record 2, etc. The "Enable Fill Handle" box is checked in Excel options. However, when she uses the AutoFill handle, it just pastes the same number in every cell. Deb is wondering how she can fix this.

Based upon the described behavior, it sounds like you are trying to use AutoFill to create a series (1, 2, 3, etc.) when you aren't giving AutoFill enough information to determine that is what you want to do. For example, enter the value 1 into cell A1 and the value 2 into cell A2. If you select cell A2 and use the AutoFill handle to drag downward, what happens is that Excel fills each of the cells with the value 2. Why? Because you only started by selecting a single cell.

On the other hand, if you select cells A1:A2 and then drag down, AutoFill will increment the value placed into each of the cells. Why? Because it can analyze what you started with to determine you want to fill the cells with a series of values.

If, for some reason, you don't want to start with a selection of two cells, you could simply select one cell (A2) and hold down the Ctrl key as you drag the fill handle downward. AutoFill will override its normal determination (copy the selected value downward) by forcing a series of numbers into the filled cells.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (3841) 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: AutoFill Won't Work as Expected.

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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