Dealing With Excel's Ctrl Key Paradox

Spreadsheets and graphs on a desk

Generally, most keyboard tricks and shortcuts work consistently in Excel, but there's one aspect involving the Ctrl key and the mouse that behaves the opposite depending upon whether a cell contains a value or a date.

In this article I'll describe the paradox and show an alternative with the right-mouse button that works consistently no matter what type of data you're working with. I'll also share a couple of keyboard shortcuts that can straighten things out should the technique blur.

To begin, let's enter the word Day1 into cell A1 of a blank worksheet. Select cell A1 and then drag the notch in the lower right-hand corner, known as the Fill Handle, down column A to cell A20. Notice that Excel creates a series that runs from Day1 through Day 20.

Next, enter the number 1 in cell B1 and then drag that down through cell B20. In this case cells B1 through B20 all contain the number 1.

The same action occurs if you double-click the Fill Handle if you have data in at least one adjacent column. Next, in cell C1 enter the number 1.

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About David Ringstrom, CPA

David Ringstrom

David H. Ringstrom, CPA, is an author and nationally recognized instructor who teaches scores of webinars each year. His Excel courses are based on over 25 years of consulting and teaching experience. His mantra is “Either you work Excel, or it works you.” David offers spreadsheet and database consulting services nationwide.


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