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Definition

autofill

What is autofill?

Autofill, also called autocomplete, is a software feature that automatically inserts previously entered personal information into web form fields for the user's convenience. Autofill is often used by browsers, word processors and password managers to reduce the effort required to provide frequently requested information.

Autofill is typically saved locally on the computing device it is used on. Popular fields of information completed by autofill include name, date of birth, age, address, credit card or banking information. It often organizes previously submitted content based on the field where users would begin entering information, such as a person's name or organization.

For example, if entering shipping information for an online purchase, users can start entering a name, and the associated data populates the remaining fields automatically, including the street address, town, state and ZIP code. They can also set up their browser to autofill credit card details.

What is autofill form data in Chrome?

Autofill form data is a feature that is integrated into most browsers, such as the Google Chrome browser. It is designed to provide more efficient and user-friendly experiences. Whenever the user fills out an online form, the browser stores that data, remembers it and automatically fills in the information on online forms with the same or similar questions.

To customize the Google autofill or Chrome autofill feature, go to the Settings panel, and choose whether to turn autofill on or off, manage stored data, and add or remove specific details. In this manner, Google enables users to take and maintain control over their data and how the autofill feature uses it.

how to access autofill settings in Chrome
Accessing the autofill settings within Google Chrome by selecting Settings

How to clear autofill on Chrome

To clear autofill data, first, access autofill settings within Google Chrome. Do this by clicking on the three-dot icon in the browser's upper right-hand corner. Select Settings from the drop-down menu.

Once in the Settings panel, look for the autofill section, and find different categories of autofill data, such as passwords, payment methods, addresses and more. Click on the category for which to clear the data.

google chrome autofill and password settings
Options in the Google Chrome browser autofill settings section

How to remove autofill on Chrome

If users click on any of the autofill categories, like payment methods, they find a toggle switch at the top of the page. This switch is turned on by default, enabling the autofill feature. To disable autofill, simply click on this switch. They can do this for each category for which they want to stop Chrome from auto filling data.

Google Chrome payment methods autofill settings
Accessing payment methods autofill settings section in Google Chrome

What is AutoFill in Excel?

Microsoft's spreadsheet software, Excel, has an autofill feature designed to enhance productivity and user experience. The autofill function helps to quickly populate cells with repetitive or sequential data, including dates, numbers and formulas.

Similar to how the autofill feature works in browsers, Excel AutoFill operates on the principle of pattern recognition. However, Excel's AutoFill is not just for simple sequences or repetitive entries. When a user enters data into a cell and then drags the cell's fill handle -- the small square at the bottom-right corner of the cell -- Excel quickly analyzes the input and tries to predict and continue the series in subsequent cells.

Excel can recognize complex patterns and progressions and complete a series of weekdays, months, years or even a custom list. AutoFill can also copy formulas while adjusting cell references to save significant time when performing calculations on large data sets.

Excel's AutoFill feature also interacts intelligently with other functions. For example, relative cell references automatically update based on the new location whenever a user copies formulas using AutoFill. This makes it efficient for applying calculations across rows or columns.

How to use AutoFill in Excel

To autofill sequential numbers, simply enter a number in a cell, and click on the cell to select it. The fill handle appears at the bottom-right corner of the cell. Click and drag the fill handle across the cells to continue the sequence. Once a user releases the mouse button, Excel automatically fills those cells with sequential numbers.

The process is similar to that for repeating the same data across multiple cells. Enter the data in a cell, select it and drag the fill handle across the desired cells. Excel replicates the data in all selected cells.

How to autofill dates in Excel

To autofill dates in Excel, input the initial date in a cell (mm/dd/yyyy or dd/mm/yyyy). Next, click on the cell to select it. The fill handle is visible at the bottom-right corner of the cell. Click and hold the fill handle, and drag it across the cells for the date series to continue. When releasing the mouse button, Excel automatically populates these cells with consecutive dates.

What is autofill on Android?

Autofill is a key feature on Android OS designed to simplify, expedite and enhance end-user experiences. Users can quickly complete online forms or populate data across apps and websites as autofill remembers and automatically enters information such as usernames, addresses, passwords, addresses and credit card details.

What is AutoFill on an iPhone?

AutoFill is an important feature of Apple's iPhone. It is designed to provide iPhone users with an efficient, streamlined approach to inputting personal information into various forms on websites and apps. The AutoFill function works with Apple's Contacts app and Safari browser. It uses the contact information saved under My Info to fill out forms.

How to edit AutoFill on iPhone?

To edit AutoFill information on an iPhone, open the Contacts app, scroll to locate the contact card -- typically at the top of the list and marked as My Card -- and tap Edit in the top-right-hand corner of the screen. Scroll down to find the field to edit, input the updated information in the relevant fields and save changes by tapping Done.

What are the security risks of using autofill?

As with many convenience features, there is a security risk inherent in the use of autofill. Hackers have exploited the autofill feature on web browsers in phishing attacks by using hidden form fields to collect sensitive information. Most browsers allow users to turn off the autofill feature to avoid such vulnerabilities.

Comparing web browser privacy and security features, and compare Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Edge browsers.

This was last updated in July 2023

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