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Excel 2019: Double-Click the Fill Handle to Copy a Formula


February 11, 2019 - by Bill Jelen

Double-Click the Fill Handle to Copy a Formula. Photo Credit: rawpixel at Unsplash.com

You have thousands of rows of data. You’ve added a new formula in the top row of your data set, something like =PROPER(A2&" "&B2), as shown here. You need to copy the formula down to all of the rows of your data set.

First names in column A. Last names in column B. A formula of =PROPER(A2&" "&B2) is in cell C2.

Many people will grab the Fill Handle and start to drag down. But as you drag down, Excel starts going faster and faster. There is a 200-microsecond pause at the last row of data. 200 microseconds is long enough for you to notice the pause but not long enough for you to react and let go of the mouse button. Before you know it, you’ve dragged the Fill Handle way too far.


If you drag the fill handle, it is easy to shoot past the end of the data set and end up hundreds of rows below the last row of data.

The solution is to double-click the Fill Handle! Go to exactly the same spot where you start to drag the Fill Handle. The mouse pointer changes to a black plus sign. Double-click. Excel looks at the surrounding data, finds the last row with data today, and copies the formula down to the last row of the data set.

Cell C2 is selected. A square dot in the lower right corner of the cell is called the Fill Handle. Hover the mouse over the dot and the mouse cursor changes to a black plus sign. When the + sign appears, double-click to copy the formula.

In the past, empty cells in the column to the left would cause the “double-click the Fill Handle” trick to stop working just before the empty cell. But as you can see below, names like Madonna, Cher, or Pele will not cause problems. Provided that there is at least a diagonal path (for example, via B76-A77-B78), Excel will find the true bottom of the data set.

In row 77, a person with only a first name and no last name. While the blank cell in B77 would have previously caused the Double-Click-The-Fill-Handle to stop at C76, it now goes all the way to the bottom of the data.

In my live Power Excel seminars, this trick always elicits a gasp from half the people in the room. It is my number-one time-saving trick.

Alternatives to Double-Clicking the Fill Handle

This trick is an awesome trick if all you've done to this point is drag the Fill Handle to the bottom of the data set. But there are even faster ways to solve this problem:

  • Use Tables. If you select one cell in A1:B112 and press Ctrl+T, Excel formats the range as a table. Once you have a table, simply enter the formula in C2. When you press Enter, it is copied to the bottom.
  • Use a complex but effective keyboard shortcut. This shortcut requires the adjacent column to have no empty cells. While it seems complicated to explain, the people who tell me about this shortcut can do the entire thing in the blink of an eye.

Here are the steps:

  1. From your newly entered formula in C2, press the Left Arrow key to move to cell B2.
  2. Press Ctrl+Down Arrow to move to the last row with data—in this case, B112.
  3. Press the Right Arrow key to return to the bottom of the mostly empty column C.
  4. From cell C112, press Ctrl+Shift+Up Arrow. This selects all of the blank cells next to your data, plus the formula in C2.
  5. Press Ctrl+D to fill the formula in C2 to all of the blanks in the selection. Ctrl+D is fill Down.
Five steps are shown. 1. Press Left Arrow to move from name in C2 to last name in B2. 2. Ctrl+Down to reach end of data in column B. 3. Press Right Arrow to move to mostly empty column D. 4. Ctrl+Shift+Up Arrow to select from C112 to C2. 5. Ctrl+D to Fill Down, copying the formula at the top of the range to all of the cells in the range.

Note

Ctrl+R fills right, which might be useful in other situations.

As an alternative, you can get the same results by pressing Ctrl+C before step 1 and replacing step 5 with pressing Ctrl+V.

Thanks to the following people who suggested this tip: D. Carmichael, Shelley Fishel, Dawn Gilbert, @Knutsford_admi, Francis Logan, Michael Ortenberg, Jon Paterson, Mike Sullivan and Greg Lambert Lane suggested Ctrl+D. Bill Hazlett, author of Excel for the Math Classroom, pointed out Ctrl+R.

Title Photo: rawpixel at Unsplash.com


Bill Jelen is the author / co-author of
Microsoft Excel 2019 Pivot Table Data Crunching

Use Excel 2019 pivot tables and pivot charts to produce powerful, dynamic reports in minutes instead of hours, to take control of your data and your business. Even if you’ve never created a pivot table before, this book will help you leverage all their remarkable flexibility and analytical power–including valuable improvements in Excel 2019 and Excel in Office 365.