How to Copy Excel Formulas with the Fill Handle

By Ken Bluttman

You’re gonna love the fill handle in Excel. The fill handle is a quick way to copy the contents of a cell to other cells with just a single click and drag.

The active cell always has a little square box in the lower-right side of its border. That is the fill handle. When you move the mouse pointer over the fill handle, the mouse pointer changes shape. If you click and hold the mouse button, you can drag up, down, or across over other cells. When you let go of the mouse button, the contents of the active cell automatically copy to the cells you dragged over.

A picture is worth a thousand words, so take a look at the following figure, which shows a worksheet that adds some numbers. Cell E4 has this formula: =B4 + C4 + D4. This formula needs to be placed in cells E5 through E15. Look closely at cell E4. The mouse pointer is over the fill handle, and it has changed to what looks like a small, black plus sign.

You can use the fill handle to drag that formula to the other cells. Clicking and holding the left mouse button down and then dragging down to E15 does the trick.

Getting ready to drag the formula down.

Getting ready to drag the formula down.

The following figure shows what the worksheet looks like after the fill handle is used to get the formula into all the cells. This is a real time saver. Also, you can see that the formula in each cell of column E correctly references the cells to its left. This is the intention of using relative referencing. For example, the formula in cell E15 ended up with this formula: =B15 + C15 + D15.

Populating cells with a formula by using the fill handle.

Populating cells with a formula by using the fill handle.