Microsoft Office Tutorials and References
In Depth Information
Learning some handy data-entry techniques
Figure 13.11 shows another example, names in column A. The goal is to extract the fi rst,
last, and middle name (if it has one). In column B Excel successfully gets all the fi rst names
using only two examples (Mark and Tim). Plus, it successfully extracted all the last names
(column C), using Russell and Colman. Extracting the middle names or initials (column
D) eluded me until I provided examples that included a space on either side of the middle
name).
FIGURE 13.11
Using Flash Fill to split names
To summarize, Excel’s new Flash Fill is an interesting idea, but it seems to work reliably
only if the data is very consistent. Even when you think it worked correctly, make sure
you examine the results carefully. And think twice before trusting it with important data.
There’s no way to document how the data was extracted. But the main limitation is that
(unlike formulas) Flash Fill is not a dynamic technique. If your data changes, the fl
ashfi filled column does not update.
You can also use the Flash Fill feature to create new data from multiple columns. Just provide a few examples of how
you want the data combined, and Excel will i gure out the pattern and i fill in the column. Using Flash Fill to create
data seems to work much better than using it to extract data. But then again, it’s also easier to create formulas to
create data from existing columns.
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