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Ash RoyJan 29, 2014 8:43:30 PM6 min read

How to Become an Excel Ninja — 57 Keyboard Shortcuts – The Ultimate Microsoft Guide

v1207-600x600Learning keyboard shortcuts can be a real pain. But once you’ve mastered them they can save you massive amounts of time if you are a regular excel user.

Do you use a Mac? If so, we’ve got you covered. Check out these awesome keyboard shortcuts on Excel for Mac and these 45 universal keyboard shortcuts for Macs.

Once you incorporate them into your daily routine they’ll  save your hours each week!

In terms of time management hacks keyboard shortcuts are right up there with my 15 Siri voice commands to save an hour a week, 3 steps to overcoming procrastination using mindfulness and my 3 steps to creating targeted to do lists.

I mean, think about it. Each time you want to copy a bit of text you’ve got to go through all these steps:

  1. Reach for the mouse
  2. Move the cursor to the top left of your screen
  3. Click on File in the drop down menu and finally
  4. Select the copy option from the drop down menu

You could be achieving exactly the same outcome by hitting two buttons on your keyboard CTRL + C.

Sure it’s painful to remember to use CTRL + C rather than reach for your mouse every time you want to copy. But a mindful approach can dramatically increase your chances of cultivating the habit.

And once you’ve cultivated the habit of using your keyboard rather than your mouse you’ll be amazed at how much faster you get.

Once I started using keyboard shortcuts about 8 years ago, I found that my entire workflow improved. Remembering they key combinations e.g. CTRL + C  requires little or no cognitive input. Much like driving a car. It all seems to happen at a ‘spinal level’. Sort of like breathing.

Not only do I save on time executing on those 4 steps but I also have the luxury of uninterrupted  “thought flow”. This is very useful when I’m hurtling towards a deadline on an excel model or a word document I promised myself I would get done.

The best piece of advice I can give you is learn one keyboard shortcut first. Go really slow and really master than one shortcut before moving to the next one.

Once you’ve started to see the dramatic time saving benefits of having learnt that first keyboard shortcut, you will find yourself dying to master the rest of them. Once your mind is open to the idea you will find your ability to memorise the shortcuts also improves quite dramatically.

What’s even better is that many of these keyboard shortcuts are universal across the various Microsoft office applications. So once you’ve learnt them on excel you’ll find that some of them can be used on word, powerpoint too.

Routine activities such as copying and pasting stuff, navigating quickly around and between spreadsheets, adding or removing formatting, are critical skills for a good excel user. Even more so if you work a lot with excel models.

So if you want to be an excel ninja then the tools are right here for you to make it happen.

Mastering these keyboard shortcuts saves me HOURS each week. It also helps dramatically when I’m in ‘the flow’ of creating a model. The thinking process is not compromised by the mechanics of navigating around a spreadsheet because that requires no more cognitive engagement on my part than riding a bike.

Also quite a few of these shortcuts translate across to the Mac – just use the Command key instead of the CTRL key in the combinations below:

I’ve categorised the shortcuts for your convenience:

Basic editing and saving shortcuts:

  1. Edit the contents of a cell – F2
  2. Copy  – CTRL + C
  3. Paste – CTRL + V
  4. Paste Special – CTRL + ALT + V  (allows you to paste specific attributes of a cell i.e. paste only the formatting or paste only the values etc)
  5. Save – CTRL + S ( I recommend using this one obsessively)
  6. Cut – CTRL + X
  7. Undo last action  – CTRL + Z (very handy)
  8. Select all  – CTRL + A

What’s cool is you can use these in combinations too. So for example if you want to copy to contents of an entire worksheet to another worksheet you’d just have to hit CTRL + A (to highlight all the data), hit CTRL + C (to copy all the data), move the cursor to the destination worksheet where you want to paste the data, and then hit CTRL + V.

Switching between open programs on your PC:

  1. Switch between programs on your PC  – ALT  + TAB. This one is probably the most used shortcuts on the PC. Being able to toggle between open programs using the alt and tab keys is a massive time saver.

Formatting shortcuts:

  1. Access box formatting options  – CTRL + 1
  2. Number format – SHIFT +CTRL + !
  3. Date format – SHIFT +CTRL + #
  4. Currency format – SHIFT +CTRL + $
  5. Scientific format – SHIFT +CTRL + ^
  6. Time format –  SHIFT +CTRL + @
  7. Percentage format – SHIFT +CTRL + %
  8. Increase number of decimal places  – ALT +H + O
  9. Decrease number of decimal places – ALT +H + 9
  10. Access general formatting – SHIFT +CTRL + –
  11. Apply format again – F4
  12. Italicise selection – CTRL + I
  13. Underline selection – CTRL + U
  14. Bold selection  – CTRL + B
  15. Apply Strikethrough (or remove strikethrough) – CTRL + F5
  16. Align to centre – Alt + H + A + C
  17. Align left  – Alt + H + A + L
  18. Align Right  – Alt + H + A + R

Border formatting shortcuts:

  1. Add border outline – CTRL + Shift + &
  2. Add/Remove right border – Alt + R
  3. Add/Remove left border – Alt + L
  4. Add/Remove top border – Alt + T
  5. Add/Remove bottom border – Alt + B
  6. Remove borders – CTRL + Shift + _

Entering time and date stamps into cells (super useful when creating a work tracker):

  1. Enter the current date into a cell – CTRL + ;
  2. Enter the current time into a cell – CTRL + SHIFT + ; 

These shortcuts are incredibly powerful in creating your own work tracker – something to be explored in a future blog post. Feel free to remind me in the comments section if I forget 🙂

Navigating within and between worksheets:

  1. Go to the cell A1 (the first cell) in the spreadsheet – CTRL + Home
  2. Move to the last cell in the worksheet – CTRL + End
  3. Move up a screen – Page Up
  4. Move down a screen – Page Down
  5. Move one word to the right – Ctrl + Right Arrow
  6. Move one word to the left  – Ctrl + Right Arrow
  7. Move one cell to the right/left/up/down – Right/left/up/down arrow key 
  8. Move to previous worksheet – CTRL + Page Up
  9. Move to next worksheet – CTRL + Page Down
  10. Move to the beginning of a string – Home
  11. Jump forward one word – CTRL + Right Arrow
  12. Jump back one word  – CTRL + Right Arrow

Selecting stuff:

  1. Select entire row – Shift + Space
  2. Select entire column – CTRL + Space
  3. Select the entire worksheet – CTRL + A
  4. Select one word right  – CTRL + SHIFT + Right Arrow
  5. Select one word left – CTRL + Right Arrow
  6. Cancel selection – Esc

Quick Formulas:

  1. Autosum selected range of cells – Alt + =
  2. Calculate worksheets (if auto calculation is off) – F9
  3. Calculate only active worksheet – Shift + F9
  4. Expand or collapse formula bar – CTRL + Shift + U

This list is a great start but by no means comprehensive. What shortcuts do you use? What shortcuts do you think are missing in this post? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

If you find this information useful then please share it via email, Facebook, Twitter and any other social networks. Your referral is the ultimate compliment!


Ash Roy

Ash Roy has spent over 15 years working in the corporate world as a financial and strategic analyst and advisor to large multinational banks and telecommunications companies. He suffered through a CPA in 1997 and completed it despite not liking it at all because he believed it was a valuable skill to have. He sacrificed his personality in the process. In 2004 he finished his MBA (Masters In Business Administration) from the Australian Graduate School of Management and loved it! He scored a distinction (average) and got his personality back too!