Excel is a powerful spreadsheet, but you can’t call yourself a power user until you’ve mastered the essential keyboard shortcuts. Here are the 10 everyone needs to know.
Longtime readers may recognise this as an expansion of a smaller list we ran back in 2011. I’ve mostly avoided obvious shortcuts that also work in other apps (such as Ctrl-Z for undo), but a couple are so important they have been singled out.
Excel has hundreds of keyboard shortcuts — look up ‘keyboard shortcuts’ in Excel help (accessed via the F1 key) for a full list or check out our comprehensive guide— but these are the ones you’ll keep returning to.
Arrow keys: Navigate and select cells
This might seem ridiculously obvious, but I often see inexperienced Excel users clicking from cell to cell using their mouse. That’s very inefficient. Navigating from cell to cell with the arrow keys is much faster.
The real power of the arrow keys becomes apparent when you need to select multiple cells. Hold down the shift key and you can select multiple cells by moving up, down, left or right. (Shift also works with other navigation keys, such as PgUp, PgDn, Home and End.)
Ctrl/Shift+Space: Select an entire row or column
For even more selection power, Ctrl+Space selects an entire column. Shift+Space selects an entire row. You can then use the shift keys plus the arrow keys as appropriate to select additional rows or columns.
These aren’t Excel-specific, but they’re worth singling out because of the intelligent way Excel handles them. If you copy a cell with a formula and then paste it into another cell, the references will be automatically adjusted.
F2: Edit the current cell
Don’t waste time double-clicking a cell or moving to the formula bar: hit F2 and edit the current cell immediately.
Ctrl+1: Access cell properties
The cell properties dialog lets you set formatting, alignment, fill, protection and other options. Many of these are available in the Ribbon as well, but if you’re a veteran Excel user, this is a more familiar option.
Ctrl+PgUp/PgDn: Navigate between worksheets
Complex Excel spreadsheets often have multiple worksheets. Rather than clicking on the bottom-of-screen tabs, use Ctrl-PgUp and Ctrl-PgDn to navigate.
Ctrl+;: Enter the current date
Using Ctrl+; saves time checking and entering the date; I find myself using this a lot.
F9: Calculates all worksheets
If you’re running a particularly complex spreadsheet, this is a fast way to make sure all formulas are up-to-date.
Ctrl+`: Show or hide formulas
Note sure which formulas are running in your spreadsheet? Use Ctrl-` (the accent key, near the number 1) to see the formulas in the cells rather than their results.
Alt: Access the ribbon
Every single Ribbon command in Excel can be accessed via the keyboard. Hit Alt and you’ll see a letter (or a two-letter combination) above each ribbon tab. Type that letter or combo and you’ll see letters over each feature of the ribbon. So typing Alt, then H (Home), then AL (Align Left) will align the current cell left.
Any additions to this list? Share them in the comments.