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Creating sequential lists in a spreadsheet

Ever do one of the following in a spreadsheet?

  • Type the names of months (e.g. from January to December)
  • Type the names of days (e.g. from Sunday to Saturday)
  • Type a list of numbers (e.g. from 2011 to 2020)

Many spreadsheet programs help you create lists of sequential items using just one or two typed cells and a mouse drag. That’s lots less work than actually typing every item in a list . Check the following examples to see what I mean.

Creating a list of months

  1. In any cell, type the word “January”. (This works with abbreviations as well, like “Jan”.)
  2. Click the cell to make it the active cell.
  3. Use your mouse to grab the “drag handle” at the lower right corner of the cell. The mouse pointer turns into a black cross
  4. Drag the handle . The months will appear in small boxes below the cells as you drag.
  5. Let go of the handle, and you have your list of months.

Check the video below to see list creation in action. In my examples, I create vertical lists, but you can do the same thing going horizontally as well.

Creating a list of days and dates

Spreadsheets can also help you create multiple sequential lists at the same time. For instance, by highlighting two adjacent cells, then following the method described above, you get a list of day names and date numbers. Play the video below for an illustration.

Creating sequential lists

If there’s a logical sequence to the list you want to create, chances are your spreadsheet software can figure it out with only two initial entries. Note that I said two entries. If you start with one initial entry of something that isn’t obviously part of a list (like days or months), the spreadsheet assumes you want to copy that item when you drag it. Play the video below for an illustration.

How you can use this tip

Try creating any lists you need in your spreadsheet using the same type-one-cell (or two) and-drag tactic. You’ll likely save lots of time doing this.