How to Auto Populate the Date in Excel: A Step-by-Step Guide

Auto populating the date in Excel is a simple yet powerful tool to boost your productivity. You can do it in a few clicks or with a formula. After doing this, you will have a cell or range of cells in your spreadsheet that will automatically update with the current date every time you open the document. This is particularly useful for creating reports, tracking activities, or managing schedules that need to reflect the current date.

After you complete the action, the cell(s) you’ve set up will always show the current date, ensuring that your data is up-to-date without the need to manually change it every time.


Excel, Microsoft’s powerful spreadsheet software, is a staple in the business world for data management and analysis. However, many of us are still manually entering dates into our spreadsheets, leaving room for error and taking up precious time. Why do that when you can have Excel do it for you automatically?

Auto populating the date in Excel is not just a neat trick; it’s a game-changer for anyone who uses Excel regularly. Whether you’re a financial analyst tracking market trends, a project manager keeping up with deadlines, or a small business owner recording daily sales, having the current date automatically populate in your Excel sheet saves time and reduces mistakes. It’s a simple way to streamline your workflow and ensure your data is always current. But how do you set it up? Let’s dive in.

How to Auto Populate the Date in Excel Tutorial

This section will cover the steps needed to set up your Excel spreadsheet to automatically populate the date.

Step 1: Open your Excel document

Open the Excel document where you want the date to auto populate.

In this step, you’re preparing your document for the date function. Make sure you’re working on the correct file and have saved any necessary changes before proceeding.

Step 2: Select the cell(s) for date auto-population

Click on the cell or select the range of cells where you want the date to appear.

By selecting the cell(s), you’re telling Excel exactly where you want the automatic date to be displayed. If you’re going to auto-populate the date in multiple cells, click and drag to select them all.

Step 3: Enter the TODAY function

Type “=TODAY()” into the formula bar and press enter.

The TODAY function is a simple yet powerful formula in Excel. When you enter it into a cell, Excel understands that it needs to display the current date in that cell. The date will automatically update each day.

Step 4: Format the date (optional)

Right-click the cell(s), select ‘Format Cells,’ and choose your desired date format.

Excel offers a variety of date formats to choose from, depending on your preference or regional standards. Formatting the date ensures that it displays in the style that’s most useful for your document’s purpose.


Saves timeAuto populating the date means you no longer have to manually enter the current date, saving you time that can be better spent on other tasks.
Reduces errorsManual entry is prone to error. Automating this task ensures accuracy in your data.
Enhances productivityWith the date auto populating, you can streamline processes like tracking and reporting, boosting overall productivity.


Limited to current dateThe TODAY function only inserts the current date, so if you need a different date, you will need to enter it manually or use a different function.
Not suitable for historical recordsSince the date updates automatically, it’s not ideal for sheets that require a static historical record of dates.
May cause confusionIf the document is shared, other users might be confused if they are unaware that the date auto updates, possibly expecting a different date.

Additional Information

While the TODAY function is a great tool, there are other ways to auto populate the date in Excel. For instance, if you need the date and time, you could use the NOW function which operates similarly. Keep in mind that while the TODAY and NOW functions update the date or date and time automatically when the document is opened or a calculation occurs, they do not keep a static record of when the data was first entered or last modified. For tracking purposes, you might want to use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + ; to insert the current date as a static value that won’t change.

Another helpful tip is to use Conditional Formatting to highlight dates that are approaching deadlines or are overdue, adding another layer of functionality to your auto-populated dates. Remember, the versatility of Excel allows for a lot of creativity in how you manage your data, so don’t be afraid to experiment with different functions and formatting options.


  1. Open your Excel document.
  2. Select the cell(s) for date auto-population.
  3. Enter the TODAY function.
  4. Format the date (optional).

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the difference between the TODAY and NOW functions?

The TODAY function inserts the current date only, while the NOW function includes both the current date and time.

Can I set the auto-populated date to update at a specific time?

No, the date will update when the document is opened or a calculation occurs in the spreadsheet.

Will the auto-populated date change if I send the Excel file to someone in a different time zone?

Yes, it will update according to the system time of the device it’s opened on.

Is there a way to auto-populate the date without it updating every day?

Yes, you can insert a static date by using the Ctrl + ; shortcut.

Can I use the auto-populated date in calculations?

Absolutely! Since Excel recognizes it as a date, you can use it in various date and time calculations.


Mastering the art of auto populating the date in Excel can significantly enhance your efficiency and data accuracy. Whether you choose to use the TODAY function or prefer static dates, Excel offers flexibility to suit your needs.

Remember, the key to Excel mastery lies in understanding the variety of functions at your disposal and finding the right ones for your specific tasks. With the tips and tricks from this article, you’re well on your way to becoming an Excel pro. Keep exploring, keep learning, and most importantly, keep excelling!

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