Essential Excel Shortcuts

By Gary Moser, Director of Institutional Research, The California Maritime Academy

Excel is universal and almost irresistible in that it gives individuals the ability to directly interact with data and its formatting. This feature, unfortunately, encourages “finger-painting,” or interacting with data in a non-systematic, cell-by-cell way that inevitably introduces errors and inconsistencies.

All Excel users should familiarize themselves with Ray Panko’s fascinating research on spreadsheet errors. For those of us who choose to use Excel (or must), learning to use shortcuts can dramatically improve productivity, give us more systematic ways to interact with our data, and help to avoid injury caused by excessive mouse use.

Below is a selection of shortcuts that I consider essential. Try them out in a workbook you’ve developed to see how they function. At first, it might slow you down to use shortcuts, however, if you can resist the urge to “finger-paint,” you’ll be rewarded with improvements in efficiency and consistency.

Notes on Specific Shortcuts:

2 and 3 – I like to toggle between Ctrl+Home/End to quickly scope the contents of a sheet.

5 and 6 – After Shift+Space or Ctrl+Space, use Shift+Arrow to select multiple rows/columns. Keep in mind that this selects the ENTIRE row or column to the edge of the worksheet.

10 – Use liberally! No more high-precision, perfectly-timed double clicking required.

13 – This helps with the fact that what you see in Excel is NOT always what you get.

14 – If you have an external process that writes data to Excel, sometimes formulas reading that data will not auto-update properly. You can force all formulas in the workbook to re-evaluate and recalculate using this very long “shortcut.”



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Total Comments: 8
Steve posted on 7/17/2014 10:12 AM
Thanks Gary. I'll be sure to bookmark this page for future reference!
Kendra posted on 8/14/2014 10:12 AM
Gary, these shortcuts are great! I have used numbers 5-7 many times!
Bob posted on 8/14/2014 11:52 AM
Although it is not a keyboad shortcut, I consider the Format Painter an essential tool (or shortcut) for every Excel user. Its usefulness cannot be minimized.
Lee posted on 8/14/2014 11:53 AM
Thanks Gary! This is a very helpful and handy summary. As a regular user of Excel, I will definitely be able to put this Tech Tip to use.
Jeffrey posted on 8/14/2014 12:13 PM
All essential Gary! I have started to use some of the formatting shortcuts as well. I love 'Ctrl+Shift+%' to change all selected cells to the percent format.
There's an exhaustive lilst here.
Terry posted on 8/15/2014 8:49 AM
I've used Excel for many, many years (all the way back to DOS versions) but I am continually learning new things to make it easier to work. Great post I can always use a shortcut. I plan on using some of these quickly so that they become second nature.
Angela posted on 8/15/2014 9:53 AM
These are incredibly helpful shortcuts. Number 10 for editing the contents of a cell is a great new tip for me and will save lots of time. Thanks for sharing!
Mary Jo posted on 9/11/2014 11:49 PM
Great summary - thanks for sharing!