MVP #45: My Most Used Excel Keyboard Shortcuts

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I remember my Excel genius Indian senior colleague telling me in 2011, "Michael you are too slow!" I couldn't understand. I never felt faster. I was moving the mouse furiously and pounding on the keyboard. If I was faster it would look like I was on drugs.

So I asked him, "Why? I am working really fast."

"Nope, you are not. You are using the mouse. In Excel, if you use the mouse then you will be very slow. Use keyboard shortcuts."

That advice changed my Excel life. In a few weeks I had memorized enough keyboard shortcuts that I could be on Excel making complex reports and switching between eight different Excel files without touching the mouse. I even close Excel files without clicking on anything, I use CTRL + W.

Today, I will be sharing with you my most used keyboard shortcuts.

I will start with a list of the ones we all know and move to less known ones.

  • CTRL + C => Copy
  • CTRL + V => Paste
  • CTRL + X => Cut
  • CTRL + F => Find and Replace
  • CTRL + B => Make cell entry bold
  • CTRL + U => Underline cell entry
  • CTRL + I => Make cell entry italic
  • CTRL + A => Select all (within current region). Do CTRL + A twice to select entire Excel sheet
  • CTRL + O => Launch the file opening dialog box. To open an Excel file,
  • CTRL + P => Print
  • CTRL + S => Save 
  • CTRL + Z =>Undo
  • CTRL + Y => Redo (more like undo undo)
  • CTRL + T => Convert your cells records to a table. Tables are more colorful and formula friendly. Try it for any Excel list you have created.
Now to the less known.

CTRL + down arrow key
This will enable you jump from the top of an Excel table to the bottom.

And the cool thing is that it works with the other arrow keys. If you want to jump from bottom to the top, just press CTRL + up arrow key. Also try it with the left and right arrow keys.

CTRL + SHIFT + down arrow key
This will enable you select everything from top to the bottom of an Excel table. Saves a lot of precious time clicking and scrolling.

The one thing every new user of Excel finds very frustrating in Excel is making a correction to what you've typed in Excel. It's not like Microsoft Word where a backspace will let you correct OPENE to OPEN. In Excel doing a backspace will wipe out the entire cell entry. And this is where F2 comes to the rescue. Pressing on F2 lets you work with the cell record like you would in Microsoft Word, and pressing a backspace will now work as expected.

F2 is one of the function keys at the top of your keyboard.

Sometimes I need to drag a formula down. You can use the mouse to drag the formula down or simply select the cell with the formula and all the cells below that you want to drag the formula down to, and do CTRL + D.

The great thing is that you can drag formula to the right too, by doing CTRL + R

ALT keyboard shortcuts
In Excel (and other Microsoft office programs) if you press the ALT key, you will see a bunch of letters at the menu bar. Pressing one of the letters you see will make Excel act like you've clicked the menu option the letter represents.

In the screenshot below I pressed ALT and the letters came up. Then I pressed letter P, which is for Page Layout. Notice what happened, in the second screenshot.

If I press another letter for the options under Page Layout, I will be doing the same thing as clicking that option with my mouse.

And that's the magic of using the ALT keyboard shortcuts. Try it. Remember that you shouldn't press the keys at the same time. Press ALT and wait for Excel to catch up and show you the set of letters available, the press the letter you want and wait again. 

My favourite ALT keyboard shortcuts are 
  • ALT, H, V, V => To paste what I copied as values
  • ALT, H, K => To format number as comma style (10000 to display as 10,000.00)
  • ALT, H, 9 => To remove decimal points (change the 10,000.00 to 10,000)
  • ALT, H, E, A => To erase everything in the cells I selected, including borders and color formatting. The usual Delete only removes content not borders and colors. So I use this a lot.
  • ALT, A, M => To remove duplicates
  • ALT, N, V, T => To insert a Pivot Table. It's ALT, N, V for Excel 2013
  • ALT, A, F, T => To import a text file into Excel
  • ALT, H, V, S, V, D => To add one cell's value to another cell's. Equivalent of copy, paste special, paste as value and add to existing value.
  • ALT, H, V, S, E = > Paste as transpose. I use this a lot too.
  • ALT, H, V, S, V, M => To multiply a cell with the value of another cell. Same as copy paste special, paste as value and multiply. I use this to convert numbers stored as text to numbers by multiplying them all with a cell I typed 1 into. 
And those are my most used Excel keyboard shortcuts.

There is one more, it is ALT + TAB. I use it to switch between different opened Excel files.

Unfortunately, there are no Easter eggs in Excel. I'm still hoping to find one. In Linux, the debian version, if you type sudo apt-get moo in the command line, you will get an Easter egg joke which gets better when you add -v ( turning it to sudo apt-get moo -v). Then, another v (sudo apt-get moo -vv). And another v. Then a final v. If you ever come across a Ubuntu Linux try it and you will never forget those commands.


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