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Learn to Use the Fill Handle

The fill handle is one of the most useful tools available in Excel and Google Sheets.

The fill handle allows you to:

  • Create number sequences
  • Guess predictable values
  • Continue patterns
  • Copy and re-apply formatting
  • Copy and adjust formulas!

If you want to learn how all this is possible, then keep on reading!

What is the Fill Handle?

The fill handle is that little box in the bottom right corner of the selected cell(s).

To use the fill handle, move your mouse over the small box until your cursor turns into a small black cross.

When you see the small cross, click and drag to expand your selection to activate the fill handle. Release your click to apply it.

The context of the selected cell(s) will determine what the fill handle does. In other words, the fill handle will look at what is in the selected cell(s) to figure out what to do.

Now that you know what the fill handle is, we can get into all the different things it can do!

Create a Number Sequence

You can use the fill handle to create a quick number sequence like 1, 2, 3, etc.

Start by typing in 1, 2, and 3. Next, select the cells, and use the fill handle to expand the selection.

You are left with a sequence of numbers when you release your click.

Guess Predictable Values

You can use the fill handle to finish sequences of predictable values.

For example, if you type in Monday and Tuesday, you can use the fill handle to fill in the remaining days of the week.

Type in Monday and Tuesday, and select the cells.

Next, drag the fill handle and release your click to finish the list of weekdays.

Continue a Pattern

Let’s say you want to create the pattern ABC ABC ABC.

Start by typing in A, C, and C. Next, select the cells with a letter plus one extra cell.

Finally, use the fill handle to drag and expand the selection to repeat your pattern.

Copy and Re-Apply Formatting

Let’s say you just spent two minutes formatting cell B2 to look like this.

Now, instead of repeating that process for cells C2:E2, use the fill handle to replicate the formatting.

Start by selecting cell B2, and then use the fill handle to expand the selection to E2.

Release your click, and the formatting is copied and applied to the remaining cells.

Copy and Adjust Formulas

You just wrote a formula to sum the numbers in B2:B5.

Now let’s say that you want to expand the formula to cells C6, D6, and E6. Here is what you can do.

Select cell B6, and use the fill handle to expand the selection to E6.

Release your click, and the fill handle copies and adjusts the formula so that cells B6:E6 calculate their respective sums.

How awesome is that!?

As you can see, the fill handle can save you a lot of time and speed up your spreadsheet development. Practice using it when you can. It is an invaluable feature to know how to use.

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