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Excel 2019: Fill in a Flash


November 13, 2019 - by Bill Jelen

Excel Fill in a Flash. Photo Credit: lee junda at Unsplash.com

Excel 2013 added a new data-cleansing tool called Flash Fill.

In the figure below, you see full names in column A. You want to get the person’s first initial and last name in column B. Rather than try to puzzle out =PROPER(LEFT(A2,1)&" "&MID(A2,FIND(" ",A2)+1,50)), you simply type a sample of what you want in B2.

A series of names appears in column A. The heading in column B indicates you want first initial and last name. Type the desired result in B2. Select the empty cell B3.

Type the first initial in B3. Excel sees what you are doing and “grays in” a suggested result.


As soon as you start to type the first initial in B3, Excel "greys in" the answers for the rest of the column using Flash Fill. Press Enter and the results will become permanent.

Press Enter to accept the suggestion. Bam! All of the data is filled in.

Look carefully through your data for exceptions to the rule. Two people here have middle initials listed. Do you want the middle initials to appear? If so, correct the suggestion for Dennis P. Jancsy in cell B4. Flash Fill will jump into action and fix Martha K. Wendel in B9 and any others that match the new pattern. The status bar will indicate how many changes were made.

In the above case, Excel gurus could figure out the formula. But Flash Fill is easier. In the example shown below, it would be harder to write a formula to get the last word from a phrase that has a different number of words and more than one hyphen.

In this case, column A contains three fields. An account number, the account name, a hypen, and then the industry in lower case.  Type the first industry in B2, using Proper Case.

Flash Fill makes this easy. Go to cell B3 and press Ctrl+E to invoke Flash Fill.

Use Flash Fill and the rest of the industries are filled in.

Note

Flash Fill will not automatically fill in numbers. If you have numbers, you might see Flash Fill temporarily “gray in” a suggestion but then withdraw it. This is your signal to press Ctrl+E to give Flash Fill permission to fill in numbers.

Thanks to Chad Rothschiller at Microsoft for building this feature. Thanks also to Olga Kryuchkova.

Title Photo: lee junda at Unsplash.com


Bill Jelen is the author / co-author of
Microsoft Excel 2019 Inside Out

Dive into Microsoft Excel 2019–and really put your spreadsheet expertise to work. This supremely organized reference packs hundreds of timesaving solutions, tips, and workarounds–all you need to make the most of Excel’s most powerful tools for analyzing data and making better decisions.