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Flash Fill to Save Time

If you find yourself working in Microsoft Excel, then Flash Fill is something you can use.

What is Flash Fill

Flash Fill is a feature unique to Microsoft Excel that allows you to replicate a specific pattern in an instant. Basically, it allows the user to type in something once and then have the spreadsheet fill in the rest of the data based on what the user entered.

The best way to understand flash fill is through an example.

Let’s say that you have three columns of data, each containing a single letter.

Then, to the left of these columns, you have a column to contain a pattern made from the letters.

Instead of retyping the same pattern sequence for each row of letters, Flash Fill will look at the pattern already there and copy it down the column for each row containing data. The final result will be the same pattern applied to each row of data.

How to Use Flash Fill

To use Flash Fill, start by selecting the cell immediately below the cell containing the pattern you want to replicate.

Using the Excel Ribbon, go to Home > Fill > Flash Fill.

You can also use Flash Fill much more quickly by using the keyboard shortcut CTRL + E.


Two Flash Fill Examples

Here are two practical examples of when you might want to use the Flash Fill feature.

Example 1 – Create a Full Name

Let’s say you have first names, middle names, and last names listed in three different columns.

To quickly combine these three pieces of information into one column to create full names, you can use Flash Fill. Start by typing in the foremost person’s first name, middle name, and last name into cell D2 separated by space.

Next, select cell D3 and go to Home > Fill > Flash Fill or use CTRL + E. Excel will recognize the initial pattern you typed including the spaces and fill in the rest of the data for you!

Example 2 – Quickly Generate Emails

In this example, let’s say that you have the same first, middle, and last names in the three columns once again. This time, you want to generate an email address for each person based on their name. To do this, start by typing the email pattern into cell D2.

Just like before, go to Home > Fill > Flash Fill or use CTRL + E. Excel will recognize the email pattern you typed and fill in the rest of the data for you once more!

And that is the power of Excel’s Flash Fill feature!

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