How to Use the Excel Fill Handle Easily? (Top 3 Uses with Examples) (2023)

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Note: This tutorial on how to use the fill handle in Excel is suitable for all Excel users.

The “fill handle” option in Excel is very useful for completing lists of data in an Excel sheet. You must have used the Excel fill handle at least once in your Excel journey.

They come in handy when you have a large Excel Sheet that needs to be filled with long lists of sequential data.

But, many useful features of the fill handle, are not popular with the average Excel user.

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In this guide, I will throw light on these features and teach you how to use the fill handle in Excel effectively.

I’ll cover:

Table Of Contents

  1. Fill Handle in Excel – An Overview
  2. How to Use the Excel Fill Handle ?
  3. Fill Handle in Excel – Examples
    • Example 1 – Use Fill Handle to AutoFill Numbers in Excel
    • Example 2 – Use Fill Handle to AutoFill Dates in Excel
    • Example 3 – Use Fill Handle to AutoFill Weekdays in Excel
  4. Excel Fill Handle — AutoFill Options
    • AutoFill Options for Sequential Numbers
    • Auto Fill Options for Dates
    • Auto Fill Options for Week Days
  5. FAQs
    • How do I AutoFill in Excel using the keyboard?
    • How do I AutoFill in Excel without dragging the fill handle?
  6. Let’s Wrap Up


Fill Handle in Excel – An Overview

The fill handle is part of the AutoFill feature in Excel. It automatically fills rows of data, based on a pattern found in the last few cells of the data.

For example, the Excel fill handle can fill dates in chronological order, if you enter the first few dates in the column.

How to Use the Excel Fill Handle ?

The fill handle can be used by clicking on the small “plus” button visible whenever you select a series of data.

The “plus” icon is visible at the bottom right corner of your data selection.

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Click on the fill handle icon and drag it to the end of the list. You can also double click on the icon if there is an adjacent column. Excel will automatically identify the pattern in the first few cells of your data and fill in the remaining cells based on it.

Keep in mind that the fill handle can work in all directions. That is you can drag it upwards, downwards or sideways.

Fill Handle in Excel – Examples

The Excel fill handle feature is used predominantly for three types of data lists. Here, I’ll cover them with illustrations.

Example 1 – Use Fill Handle to AutoFill Numbers in Excel

The fill handle can be used to fill sequential numbers that increase or decrease by 1.

Just type in the first few numbers and drag them using the fill handle to the remaining cells.

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Example 2 – Use Fill Handle to AutoFill Dates in Excel

The fill handle can be used to autofill sequential dates. Only valid date formats recognised by Excel can be used. Just enter the first few dates and drag the fill handle to the rest of the cells.

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Example 3 – Use Fill Handle to AutoFill Weekdays in Excel

You can use the fill handle to automatically fill weekdays in your lists. Just type in the first few weekdays and drag the fill handle to the rest of the cells. You can use both the long and short forms of the weekdays.

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Excel will automatically start from Monday after Sunday.

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Excel Fill Handle — AutoFill Options

Once you fill the lists using the fill handle, you will get an option to edit or modify them using the autofill options. This list of autofill options varies according to the type of selected data.

Now, I’ll show you how these autofill options differ and their purpose.

AutoFill Options for Sequential Numbers

After you use the fill handle for sequential numbers click on the autofill options button to view them.

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Now let’s look at them in detail.

Copy Cells: Use this just to copy the first few cells

Fill Series: Use this to fill the remaining cells based on the pattern in the first few cells.

Fill Formatting Only: Use this to copy only the formatting and not the values of the first few cells.

Fill without format: Use this to fill the remaining cells based on the pattern in the first cells, but not apply their formatting.

Flash Fill: Use this to determine advanced patterns & auto-fill the remaining cells.(Available only in Excel 2013 and later versions).

Auto Fill Options for Dates

After you use the fill handle for dates click on the autofill options button to view them

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Now let’s look at them in detail.

Fill Days: Use it to increment your data by a day.

Fill Week Days: Use it to increment your data by a weekday, skipping the weekends.

Fill Months: Use it to increment your data by a month, fixing the day of the month.

Fill Years: Use it to increment your data by a year.

Auto Fill Options for Week Days

After you use the fill handle for weekdays, click on the autofill options button to view them

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Now let’s look at them in detail.

Copy Cells: Use this just to copy the first few cells


Fill Series: Use this to fill the remaining cells based on the pattern in the first few cells.

Fill Formatting Only: Use this to copy only the formatting and not the values of the first few cells.

Fill without format: Use this to fill the remaining cells based on the pattern in the first cells, but not apply their formatting.

Fill Days: Use it to increment your data by a day.

Fill Week Days: Use it to increment your data by a weekday, skipping the weekends.

Flash Fill: Use this to determine advanced patterns & auto-fill the remaining cells. (Available only in Excel 2013 and later versions)

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FAQs

How do I AutoFill in Excel using the keyboard?

The keyboard shortcut for autofill is Alt+I+E+S + Enter. This is set by default for numeric values. You can change it to dates or weekdays in the autofill options.
Alternatively, you can use Ctrl+Down/Right Arrow keys to select the range you want to fill and Ctrl+D/Ctrl+R to fill down/right respectively.

How do I AutoFill in Excel without dragging the fill handle?

To auto-fill cells without dragging the fill handle, you can either use the keyboard shortcuts or use the Fill option under the Home tab.

Let’s Wrap Up

In this guide, I have covered everything about using fill handle in Excel. I showed you how to use them for numbers. dates and weekdays. I also talked about the various other auto-fill options for each of these data types. If you have any doubts regarding the Excel fill handle or any other Excel feature, please let us know in the comments section below.

If you need more high-quality Excel guides, please check out our free Excel resources centre.

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Adam Lacey
How to Use the Excel Fill Handle Easily? (Top 3 Uses with Examples) (9)

Adam Lacey is an Excel enthusiast and online learning expert. He combines these two passions at Simon Sez IT where he wears a number of different hats.When Adam isn't fretting about site traffic or Pivot Tables, you'll find him on the tennis court or in the kitchen cooking up a storm.

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