How to Apply Excel Formula to Entire Column (Easy)

Excel’s ability to apply formulas across a whole column in a single go makes it a superhero for number crunching🔢

Dragging a formula’s power down the whole column helps you save loads of time. It makes working just so much more efficient and accurate.

There are multiple ways how you can apply an Excel formula to an entire column. Read with me through the end to explore all the possible ways how you can make the best use of this game-changing feature of Excel.

Don’t forget to grab your free practice workbook for this guide here.

Double-click the Fill Handle

I have two columns of numbers in Excel, and I want to sum Number 1 and Number 2 from each row➕

Summing up two numbers

After we’ve devised the formula for the first row (a simple A2+B2), we will apply it to the entire list of numbers using the fill handle by following the steps below.

Step 1) Select the cell that contains the formula.

Step 2) Hover your cursor around the lower-right corner of this cell to see a plus icon.

A plus icon

This plus icon is what we call the Fill Handle.

Step 3) Once you see it, place your cursor on it and double-click it.

The Fill Handle comes into action and fills the formula across all the upcoming cells.

Double-clicking the fill handle

But it didn’t do so for the entire list. The automatic formula filling stops at Cell C5. Strange?

If you have an adjacent column to the column where you’re applying the formula and that column contains any blank cell, the Fill Handle will only fill formulas up to that cell.

Empty cell in between

Step 4) For the remaining cells, you’d again have to write the formula in Cell C7.

Step 5) And double-click the Fill Handle again.

Rewriting formula

We again have another empty adjacent cell in between which is Cell B9.

Step 6) Again, write the formula for the next cell i.e., Cell C10.

Step 7) Double-click the Fill Handle around Cell C10 to apply the formula to the cells that come next.

Using the fill handle again

This method works best when you have no space instances in your data👀

Drag down the Fill Handle

The main problem with double-clicking the fill handle is that it stops at the point where there are any empty cells in the adjacent column.

However, you can help this problem by dragging down the fill handle yourself.

Step 1) Start by writing the formula for the first cell.

Formula for the first cell

Step 2) Select the cell that contains the formula.

Step 3) Hover your cursor around the lower-right corner of this cell to see the Fill Handle.

Step 4) Once you see it, place your cursor on it and drag it down to the cell where you want the formula applied.

Dragging down the fill handle

As you are manually dragging it down, even if there are any empty adjacent cells in between, Excel will still apply the formula for those🚀

Pro Tip!

Dragging down the fill handle to apply a formula to an entire column is only a feasible way to do so when you have a small set of data.

However, if you have a big dataset that’s spread across thousands or even hundreds of rows, dragging a formula down so many rows may prove cumbersome and impracticable.

Double-clicking the fill handle proves a better option for big datasets – unless you have too many empty adjacent cells to it.

Use the Fill Down button

Excel also has an in-built button to help the application of a formula across an entire column. We call it the Fill Down Button and it’s located in the ribbon.

Step 1) Write up your formula for the first cell.

Step 2) Select the range of cells to which you want the formula applied.

Selecting a range of cells

Step 3) Go to the Home Tab > Editing Group > Fill.

Editing group > Fill

Step 4) Click on the Fill button to launch the drop-down menu of options > select “Fill Down”.

Selecting the fill-down option

That’s it – Excel copies the formula down all the selected cells 🏍

Can also add it to the Quick Access Toolbar

If you have a lot of work to do with applying formulas across the column in Excel, you can add the Fill Down button to your Quick Access Toolbar for easy access.

The Quick Access Toolbar appears on the top of your Excel workbook.

Quick Access Toolbar

Fill Down the button to your Quick Access Toolbar:

Step 1) Click on this small dash + arrow icon on the Quick Access Toolbar.

small dash + arrow icon

Step 2) From the menu of options, select More Commands.

More commands

Takes you to the Excel Options windowpane.

Excel options

Can’t find the small dash + arrow icon? You can launch Excel Options by going to the File Tab > Options.

Step 3) From the Excel options windowpane, select Quick Access Toolbar.

Step 4) From the Option on top to Choose Commands from, select a Home tab (since the Fill Down button appears in the Editing Group on the Home tab).

Step 5) Search for the Down Fill button.

Step 6) Click on Add.

Add the Down fill button

Step 7) Once added, it will appear in the box on the right.

Added to the list

Step 8) Click Okay.

The Fill Down button is now added to your Quick Access Toolbar as an icon.

Icon added

Now you can quickly click on this button to apply a formula across a selected range of cells 🤩

Copy / Paste the formula

You can also copy a formula and paste it into as many cells as you want.

This works the same as dragging a formula across multiple cells as when you copy/paste a formula, Excel automatically updates the cell references for the pasted formulas.

Step 1) Select and copy (Control + C key) the formula from Cell C2.

Step 2) Select the range of cells where you want the formula applied (Cell C3 to C11).

Selecting a range of cells

Step 3) Press the Control key + V to paste the formula.

Formula pasted

You’d see the formula pasted across the selected cells just like we do it by other methods.

Pro Tip!

Use this method if you want to apply a formula across a range of cells only (without copying the formatting of the source cell).

To copy the formula only (without the formatting of the source cell), select the source cell and press Ctrl + C.

Go to the destination cell, right-click, and from the Paste Special options, choose “Paste formulas”.

Paste formula only

Hold down Ctrl +D (Shortcut keys)

You can also apply a formula to an entire column without having to use your mouse at all. But by using keyboard shortcuts ⌨

Step 1) Write up your formula for the first cell.

Step 2) Select the range of cells to which you want the formula applied.

Selecting a range of cells

Step 3) Press the Control key + D.

Control key + D

This is the shortcut key for Fill Down and it applies the formula down to all the selected cells.

Use an Array Formula

How about you write a single formula, and it automatically covers an entire column?

Yes, this is possible with the array formulas of Excel.

Step 1) To find the sum of all numbers within Column A and Column B, we can write an array formula as:

Click to copy

Step 2) Press Ctrl + Enter to have the array formula applied across the entire specified cell range.

Array formula applied

Pro Tip!

Array formulas are only available in Microsoft 365.

You’d see the array formula (A2:A11 + B2:B11) sits in one cell which is Cell C2, but the results of this formula are spilled over 10 rows. To delete this formula, or make any amends to it, go to the cell where it is applied (Cell C2) and not the cells where its results are spilled 💦

Look out for these!

We have seen all the possible methods that you can use in Excel to take your formula down an entire column. Look out for the following important aspects of formula auto-filling in Excel.

Absolute / Relative references

An absolute reference in Excel means a cell reference where both the column and row references are suffixed by a dollar sign ($). Like Cell $A$4.

This tells Excel to lock the cell reference and not to update it as the formula changes cells 🔒

All other references are relative references. Excel updates these references based on cell movement.

For example, if I want to find 15% of the values in Column A, I will write the formula as:

Click to copy
Formula with absolute reference

I have used an absolute cell reference for $B$8 so that it doesn’t change as I drag and drop the formula to the remaining cells.

Reference doesn’t change

Had I used a relative reference for it, Excel would have changed it for every successive cell upon the formula being dragged leading to erroneous results.

Erroneous results with relative reference

While you apply formulas across multiple cells in Excel, take care of your cell references based on the situation.

To turn a cell reference into absolute, select a cell > press the F2 key > take your cursor to that particular cell reference and > press the F4 key.

Kasper Langmann, co-founder of Spreadsheeto

Automatic Calculation Enabled or Disabled?

To make your formulas work in the best order when taken across multiple cells, make sure to have the automatic recalculation of cells enabled in Excel.

Step 1) Double-check it by going to the Formulas tab > Calculation Group > Calculation Options.

Calculation Mode

Step 2) The calculation mode must be set to automatic.

The Fill Handle doesn’t show up

If you’re hovering around a cell trying to find the Fill Handle, but it just won’t show up – you’ve some settings out of order 🤯

Most probably, the “fill handle and cell drag and drop” option is disabled. Here’s how you can enable it:

Step 1) Click on the File tab > Options.

Step 2) In the Excel Options dialog box, go to the Advanced tab from the pane on the left.

Step 3) Go to the Editing options section.

Step 4) Check the “Enable fill handle and cell drag-and-drop” option.

Enable fill handle

After the Fill Handle option is enabled, you should be able to see the Fill Handle again.

Formatting Copied across the cells

With all the methods discussed above (except for the array formula), whenever you apply a formula across multiple cells, the formatting of the source cells along with the formula will also apply to the destination cells.

Under the copy/pasting method, this can be fixed through the “Paste only Formulas” option.

However, to fix this (copy only the formula but not the formatting) for the other methods, follow these steps:

Step 1) Once you have dragged/double-clicked the fill handle to have the formula auto-filled, you’ll see the Auto Fill Options icon here.

Step 2) Click on the small drop-down menu icon next to it.

Auto-fill handle options worksheet

Step 3) From the menu of options that comes then, select the option to Fill Without Formatting.

Excel will instantly remove the formatting from the cells where the formula was dragged 🧹


This was a comprehensive tutorial that discussed all the possible methods to effortlessly extend a formula’s power down a column in Excel.

Plus, we’ve also seen some “ifs and whens” related to formula dragging in Excel to know how to make the best use of this basic, yet very powerful tool.

This feature of Excel, though basic, makes Excel a powerhouse of efficiency. If you’re a fan of Excel’s formula drag and drop feature like me, I am sure you’d love the following tools of Excel, too.

Read out my Excel tutorials on them to learn how to use them.