It’s a new year, which brings the promise of fresh starts, and resolutions to work smarter. Keyboard shortcuts are one of the best ways to both save time and reduce wear and tear on your wrists when working in Microsoft Excel. In this article I discuss fourteen of the keyboard shortcuts that I use most often in Excel. This is by no means a comprehensive listing, but rather a throwing down of the gauntlet to challenge you to incorporate at least 14 keyboard shortcuts into your daily work.
In no particular order, here are fourteen of the keyboard shortcuts that I use most frequently in Excel:
1. Ctrl-Z: Undo the last action. In Excel 2003 we were limited to undoing our last sixteen actions, but in Excel 2007 and later I’ve been able to undo at least the last 100 actions—I quit counting after I reached triple digits.
2. Ctrl-O: Launch the Open dialog box. To get the most out of this keyboard shortcut in Excel 2013 turn on Don’t Show Backstage View When Opening Or Saving Files setting shown in Figure 1. Doing so will enable you to bypass the File menu rigmarole in that version of Excel.
Figure 1: By default Ctrl-O launches the File menu in Excel 2013 unless you turn off the Backstage View.
4. Ctrl-N: Open a new, blank workbook.
5. Ctrl-C: Copy to the clipboard. Although I generally use Ctrl-C to copy blocks of cells to the clipboard, I also frequently use it to copy data from Excel’s Formula bar to the clipboard. Data that you copy from cells only remains there temporarily—many simple actions in Excel clear the clipboard. However, if you copy data from the Formula bar, the contents will remain on the clipboard until you place something else there, which is the way the clipboard works in virtually every other program.
6. Ctrl-V: Generally if you copy something to the clipboard, you’re going to want to paste it somewhere else. I often use Ctrl-V, but if I only need to paste the item once, I’ll press Enter, which simultaneously pastes and clears the clipboard.
7. Ctrl-B: Toggles Bold on or off, which is helpful when improving the look and feel of your spreadsheet.
8. Ctrl-F4: Close the active workbook (but leaves Excel open). You’ll be asked whether to save unsaved changes.
9. Ctrl-Tab: Switch between open workbooks. This is interchangeable with Alt-Tab which also allows you to switch between open programs. You can also use Ctrl-F6, which is how you switch between open windows in Word, PowerPoint, and Outlook.
10. Ctrl-Page Down: Navigate to the next worksheet to the right. Or, in a large workbook, hold down Ctrl and press Page Down repeatedly to move several worksheets to the right.
11. Ctrl-Page Up: Navigate to the next worksheet to the left.
12. Ctrl-1: Open the Format Cells dialog box. Many, but not all, formatting commands are available by way of Excel’s toolbars and ribbon interface, but in Excel 2007 and later this means continually returning to the Home tab. Ctrl-1 launches a Format Cells dialog box from anywhere in a worksheet, no matter which ribbon tab is currently active.
13. Ctrl-A: Select the current region. Another way to do so is to press Ctrl-*. For the uninitiated, the current region is the contiguous block of cells that surround the currently selected cell, bounded by the worksheet frame and the first adjacent blank row and column. Press Ctrl-A a second time to select the entire worksheet. You’ll also often find me holding down the Shift key while I select an area of the spreadsheet with the arrow keys, or sometimes Page Down, depending upon the number of rows involved.
14. Ctrl-Home: Return to cell A1. Return to the top left-hand corner of any worksheet in a flash rather than incessantly pressing Page Up or tinkering with Excel’s scroll bars.
Your list of fourteen keyboard shortcuts will likely differ from mine. The Microsoft web site offers comprehensive listings of keyboard shortcuts from which you can develop your own time saving tricks:
David H. Ringstrom, CPA heads up Accounting Advisors, Inc., an Atlanta-based software and database consulting firm providing training and consulting services nationwide. Contact David at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter. David speaks at conferences about Microsoft Excel, and presents webcasts for several CPE providers, including AccountingWEB partner CPE Link.