Speeding up data entry

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Entering data into a spreadsheet can be very labor-intensive, but Calc provides several tools for removing some of the drudgery from input.

The most basic ability is to drop and drag the contents of one cell to another with a mouse. Many people also find AutoInput helpful. Calc also includes several other tools for automating input, especially of repetitive material. They include the Fill tool, selection lists, and the ability to input information into multiple sheets of the same document.

Using the Fill tool on cells

At its simplest, the Fill tool is a way to duplicate existing content. Start by selecting the cell to copy, then drag the mouse in any direction (or hold down the Shift key and click in the last cell you want to fill), and then choose Edit > Fill and the direction in which you want to copy: Up, Down, Left or Right.

Documentation caution.png Choices that are not available are grayed out, but you can still choose the opposite direction from what you intend, which could cause you to overwrite cells accidentally unless you are careful.
Tip.png A shortcut way to fill cells is to grab the “handle” in the lower right-hand corner of the cell and drag it in the direction you want to fill. If the cell contains a number, the number will fill in series. If the cell contains text, the same text will fill in the direction you chose.

Using the Fill tool

Using a fill series

A more complex use of the Fill tool is to use a fill series. The default lists are for the full and abbreviated days of the week and the months of the year, but you can create your own lists as well.

To add a fill series to a spreadsheet, select the cells to fill, choose Edit > Fill > Series. In the Fill Series dialog, select AutoFill as the Series type, and enter as the Start value an item from any defined series. The selected cells then fill in the other items on the list sequentially, repeating from the top of the list when they reach the end of the list.

Specifying the start of a fill series (result is in next figure)
Result of fill series selection shown in previous figure

You can also use Edit > Fill > Series to create a one-time fill series for numbers by entering the start and end values and the increment. For example, if you entered start and end values of 1 and 7 with an increment of 2, you would get the sequence of 1, 3, 5, 7.

In all these cases, the Fill tool creates only a momentary connection between the cells. Once they are filled, the cells have no further connection with one another.

Defining a fill series

To define your own fill series, go to Tools > Options > OpenOffice.org Calc > Sort Lists. This dialog shows the previously-defined series in the Lists box on the left, and the contents of the highlighted list in the Entries box.

Predefined fill series

Click New. The Entries box is cleared. Type the series for the new list in the Entries box (one entry per line), and then click Add.

Defining a new fill series

Using selection lists

Selection lists are available only for text, and are limited to using only text that has already been entered in the same column.

To use a selection list, select a blank cell and press Ctrl+D. A drop-down list appears of any cell in the same column that either has at least one text character or whose format is defined as Text. Click on the entry you require.


Sharing content between sheets

You might want to enter the same information in the same cell on multiple sheets, for example to set up standard listings for a group of individuals or organizations. Instead of entering the list on each sheet individually, you can enter it in all the sheets at once. To do this, select all the sheets (Edit > Sheet > Select), then enter the information in the current one.

Documentation caution.png This technique overwrites any information that is already in the cells on the other sheets—without any warning. For this reason, when you are finished, be sure to deselect all the sheets except the one you want to edit. (Ctrl+click on a sheet tab to select or deselect the sheet.)

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