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How do I fill a cell in Google Sheets?


Filling cells in Google Sheets is a common task that allows you to quickly enter data or formulas into multiple cells at once. This can save you time compared to manually typing information into each individual cell.

There are a few different ways to fill cells in Google Sheets:

  • Drag and fill using the fill handle
  • Copy and paste
  • Use the Fill command
  • Use Flash Fill

In this article, we’ll go through each method and look at how to fill cells horizontally, vertically, or both. We’ll also cover some tips for working with filled data.

Drag and Fill With the Fill Handle

The quickest and easiest way to fill cells is by using the fill handle. Here’s how it works:

  1. Select the cell(s) you want to fill. This can be a single cell or a range.
  2. Move your mouse over the bottom right corner of the selected cell(s). The cursor will change to a black plus sign.
  3. Click and hold down the left mouse button and drag your cursor in the direction you want to fill.
  4. Release the mouse button when you have filled the range you want.

This will automatically fill the selected cells with the data from your starting cell(s).

Some tips when using drag and fill:

  • To fill horizontally (right or left), simply drag across the columns.
  • To fill vertically (up or down), drag across the rows.
  • To fill both horizontally and vertically, drag across both rows and columns.
  • If your starting cell(s) contain a formula, dragging will fill and automatically increment the formula for each cell, adjusting cell references as needed.
  • You can double click the fill handle to quickly fill the entire column or row.

Let’s look at some examples:

Fill Horizontally

To fill horizontally, select your starting cell(s) and drag across the columns:

Starting value
100 200 300

Fill Vertically

To fill vertically, select your starting cell(s) and drag across the rows:

Starting value

Fill Both Horizontally and Vertically

Drag across both rows and columns to fill horizontally and vertically:

Starting value
100 200
300 400

Fill With Formulas

With formulas, dragging will increment the formula while adjusting references:

Starting formula
=A1+1 =B1+1 =C1+1

So dragging and filling with the fill handle is a quick and easy way to populate cells. Next let’s look at copying and pasting.

Copy and Paste to Fill Cells

In addition to drag and fill, you can also fill cells by copying and pasting:

  1. Select the cell(s) you want to copy.
  2. Copy the cells using one of the following methods:
    • Right click and choose Copy
    • Use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + C (Windows) or Cmd + C (Mac)
    • Go to Edit > Copy
  3. Select the cell(s) you want to paste to.
  4. Paste using one of these options:
    • Right click and choose Paste
    • Use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + V (Windows) or Cmd + V (Mac)
    • Go to Edit > Paste

This will paste the copied data into the selected cells.

You can also use the paste special options for more control over formatting when pasting. For example:

  • Paste values only – Pastes only the values, not formulas
  • Paste formatting – Pastes just the formatting, not values
  • Paste transposed – Flips rows and columns when pasting

To access paste special, select a destination range and go to Edit > Paste special. Or use Ctrl + Shift + V (Windows) or Cmd + Shift + V (Mac).

Some advantages of copy/paste over drag and fill:

  • You can copy cells from one workbook and paste to another.
  • You can use paste special to control formatting.
  • You aren’t limited by contiguous blocks when pasting.

Overall, copy/paste gives you a bit more flexibility than drag and fill. But drag and fill is usually faster for simple fills within the same sheet.

Use the Fill Command

Another way to fill cells is using the Fill command:

  1. Select the cell(s) you want to fill from.
  2. Select the cells you want to fill.
  3. Go to Edit > Fill > Down, Right, Up or Left.

This will fill the data based on the direction you choose:

  • Down – Copies data down the column
  • Right – Copies data across rows
  • Up – Copies data up the column
  • Left – Copies data left across rows

The Fill command serves as a handy keyboard shortcut alternative to dragging with the fill handle.

Some advantages over drag and fill:

  • You don’t have to manually drag each time.
  • You can skip cells when filling instead of filling contiguous blocks.
  • You can repeat the fill command to keep filling more cells.

The Fill command gives you a bit more flexibility compared to drag and fill.

Use Flash Fill

Flash Fill is a Google Sheets feature that automatically fills cells based on pattern recognition:

  1. Enter a few examples of the pattern you want to fill.
  2. Select the cells containing the examples.
  3. Click Data > Flash Fill.

Flash Fill will analyze the examples and fill the remaining cells based on the pattern.

For example, if you type “Jan”, “Feb”, “Mar” in three cells, Flash Fill will recognize the pattern and complete the remaining months when you tell it to Flash Fill.

Some key points about Flash Fill:

  • Works best with text patterns, but can also recognize some numeric patterns.
  • Great for splitting/transforming text into a column.
  • If the first Flash Fill doesn’t work, try additional examples that capture more of the pattern.
  • You can also write your own formulas based on the Flash Fill results.

Flash Fill is useful when you want to split delimited text or transform text from one format into another.

Tips for Working With Filled Data

When filling cells in Google Sheets, keep these tips in mind:

  • Double check results to make sure filling worked as expected.
  • Pay attention to absolute vs relative cell references if filling formulas.
  • Don’t overwrite existing data you want to keep.
  • Think about how you might want to transform the filled data later – filtering, formatting, etc.
  • Undo (Ctrl + Z) can quickly reverse unwanted fill actions.
  • Deleting data from filled cells may cause odd behavior, deleting the entire filled range is safer.

Planning ahead when filling cells will help avoid issues down the road.

Example Scenarios

Here are some common examples of when you might want to fill cells in Google Sheets:

Filling Weekdays

Create a 7-day calendar with each weekday filled:

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday

Filling Months

Quickly populate all 12 months:

January February March April May June July August September October November December

Filling Numbers

Generate sequential numbers for IDs or totals:

1 2 3 4 5

Filling Formulas

Copy formulas with relative cell references:

Starting formula
=A1+1 =B1+1 =C1+1


Filling cells allows you to quickly populate Google Sheets with data. The main methods are:

  • Drag and fill with the fill handle
  • Copy and paste
  • Use the Fill command
  • Flash Fill based on examples

Think about how you want to transform and work with the filled data later on. Planning ahead helps avoid issues.

Filling cells can save a ton of time compared to manually entering data or copy/pasting. Learn the various fill methods and how to utilize them depending on your situation. Properly filling cells is an important Google Sheets skill that every user should know.