There are a number of quick tricks for entering dates, especially if there's some kind of pattern to the date values you're entering. Some of them you already know. For instance, you can enter the current date by pressing [Ctrl]+; (that's a semi-colon character). You can then create a date series by copying that single date using the fill handle. However, that process is a bit limited. Using the fill handle increases the date by one day. So, if you enter 8/8/11 and use the fill handle to create a date series, you end up with 8/8/11, 8/9/11, 8/10/11, and so on.
There's a lot of built-in flexibility to the fill handle, if you know how to access it. Using the left mouse button - the normal process - creates the incrementing day series. If, on the other hand, you use the right mouse button to drag the fill handle, you'll get a whole lot more. Let's try that now:
- Select a cell and press [Ctrl]+; to enter the current date.
- Using the right mouse button, drag the fill handle down several cells and release. When you do, Excel displays a context menu.
- Select the appropriate option. For instance, choose Fill Months to increase the month value in your date series.
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Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.