Flash Fill: An Excel Lifesaver For Monotonous Tasks

I am not an Excel guru by any stretch of the imagination, but plenty of people have to use this great tool on a regular basis. This often involves making lists, joining cells and similar tasks that can be very monotonous. I was having to do this recently to create some temporary users in a demo Office365 Education Tenant so students could play Minecraft: Education Edition.

Quite by accident, I discovered a game changer feature called Flash Fill. This has actually been around since Excel 2013 but somehow I’ve never come across it before.

How It Works:

Imagine you have a list of first and last names but you want to combine these into a new cell that has both names in them – this is a pretty common task e.g.


What Flash Fill allows you to do is type the desired name in the first cell (C1 in this example), followed by the the start of the desired name in the second cell (C2) and it will then start to Flash Fill based on the pattern e.g.


Note the names in grey in C4 and C5 are filled out by the same matching pattern after only typing the letter “B” in C2. Simply hitting enter will fill this for you for all remaining cells that match the pattern. In my real example I had thirty names to match so you can see this is a significant time saver :


Tips For Help:

There is an instructional video showing you how to do this if you need some further assistance:

FlashFill Video.PNG

Flash Fill should be turned on by default in Excel for you, but if it is not you can check under the “Options” and then “Advanced” to turn it on as explained here and in the image below:


I can imagine for Teachers that need to do a lot of work around student/parent names, contact details and results this could be a really useful tool that saves them a lot of time.


I am always keen to discuss what I've written and hear your ideas so leave a reply here...

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