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How To: Use the Excel Autonumber Feature

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Written by veryatlantic™   

How to Use the Excel Autonumber feature.

Scenario:  you need to quickly create a list of numbers from 1 to 500, and you don't have time to type them.  In this example, I will only number from 1 to 5, but the principle is the same for larger numbers.  The correct name for this feature is auto-fill, but auto-number is more descriptive for learning.

Step-by-Step Instructions.

1. Select the first cell you wish to auto-number, in this case I show Cell A1.  Type the first number of your series.  I have used the number 1 as shown below.

2. Move to Cell A2, and enter the second number of your series, in this case I have used the number 2.  This tells Excel what increment you are using, in this case, you are incrementing by "1" each time.

Note that in the figure shown, I have filled cells in both directions to show that the auto-number works both vertically and horizontally.

3. Highlight the two cells A1 and A2, noticing the small black square in the lower right corner of your selection.

4. Click and drag the small black square (called a "handle") to your destination cell.  Then release the handle and your series will fill in instantly.

5. The following shows that the auto-fill can work with other common series as well.

6. Watch close.  Once a column to the left is filled, you can double-click the handle of the next column to the right, and the auto-fill will AUTOMATICALLY stop the the bottom of the list.  This is hard to describe, so try it and see.


In the final example shown, notice my leftmost column has leading zeros.  If you are not sure how to accomplish this, please visit my article, How To: Print Leading Zeros in Excel and other spreadsheets .

Experiment using different increments and dates.  With dates, you can easily vary the month, day, or year, which is great for What-If projections.  For example, I know the savings bond I got for Xmas in 1995 will mature on a Thursday in 2035.  Don't underestimate the usefulness of the auto-number feature.


Disclaimer: veryatlantic™ is a non-technical source for advice and entertainment and is not responsible for any damages under any theory. All posts sacrifice technical accuracy for user-friendliness. If unsure, get help. Please feedback errors for correction.

This article written June 1, 2010.

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