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20 very popular Excel shortcuts

by Dave Bruns | January 14, 2016

A couple weeks ago , we released a survey on Excel shortcuts. Here are the results, based on over 800 people taking the survey.

I've also compiled a list of the most 20 popular Excel shortcuts below. This is a tricky business, because people often don't know what to call shortcuts, or how to refer to them. So I've had to "interpret" many of the shortcuts peopled named. That said, the patterns are clear, and the best shortcuts naturally bubbled up again and again. It's a great list.

Dave

Survey Results 

People think Excel Shortcuts are important

99% said Excel shortcuts are important, very important, or critical.

Wow. Although people who take a shortcut survey are naturally interested in shortcuts, this is surprising!

Most people don't know many Excel shortcuts

There are over 200 shortcuts in Excel (over 400, if you count both Windows and Mac). How many do people think they know?

26% know 10 or less
61% know between 10 and 50
10% know between 50 and 100

I made a mistake with this question – I should have asked about 10-20. My guess is about half of the 61% above are in that range.

Top 5 reasons for learning Excel Shortcuts

  1. Work faster and more efficiently in Excel
  2. Easily manage huge amounts of data
  3. Maintain sanity when doing tedious work
  4. Maintain accuracy and consistency
  5. Better understand how Excel works

I actually think the last item has the most overall "punch", since shortcuts can teach you how to solve complex problems with very elegant solutions that take advantage of Excel's most powerful features. For example, rather than use a shortcut 100 times to do the same thing (quickly) on a large set of data, you might be able to complete all the work in just a few steps. Examples here, and here.

People have been using Excel for a long time

20% have been using Excel for between 3 and 5 years
73% have been using Excel for more than 5 years
52% have been using Excel for more than 10 years

20 Most popular shortcuts

  1. Cut, copy, paste - Ctrl X, C, V (Mac: you can also use Command). I guess this is expected, since other applications share the same shortcuts. And, of course, these are shortcuts you'll use every day.
  2. Extend selection - Control Shift arrow keys (Mac: you can also use Command). These are absolutely critical shortcuts when you're working with a large set of data and want to extend your selection to the bottom, or any edge.
  3. Paste Special - Control + Alt + V (Mac: Control + Command + V). Paste Special is extremely powerful. You can paste values, paste formulas, paste formatting, and even paste column widths!
  4. Fill down - Control D. An excellent way to copy values from the cell above without copy paste. Several people also mentioned Fill right, Control + R
  5. Toggle formula references - F4 (Mac: Command Shift T). Who likes to type $ signs in a formula? No one. Use this shortcut to quickly rotate through all absolute and relative formula reference options (i.e. A1, $A$1, $A1, A$1).
  6. Autosum - Alt = (Mac: Command + T). A classic "magic" shortcut to automatically insert a sum function. You can use autosum to sum rows, columns, or even an entire table in one step (more details here;  autosum demo here).
  7. Toggle filters - Control + Shift + L (Mac: Command + Shift + F). An excellent shortcut to apply and clear all filters. It's a very handy way to "reset" a table with many filters applied...just use it twice.
  8. Current date and time - Control + ; (date) Control + Shift + : (time).  If you need a date or time stamp, it's magic.
  9. Select all - Control A (Mac: you can also use Command). This shortcut will select all data in the "same region". Use it whenever you want to select an entire table.
  10. Go to first cell / last cell - Control + Home, Control + End.  (Mac:  fn + Control + left arrow, fn + Control + right arrow. Very satisfying when you want to go instantly to the first cell or last cell of a worksheet, no matter where you are. Bonus: add the shift key to select everything on the way.
  11. Repeat last action - F4 or Control Y (Mac: Command + Y). Did you know that many commands can be repeated? You can use this for things like applying the same borders, format, or even to insert a worksheet again. (Note: on Macs up to 2011, this shortcut is not as robust).
  12. Data navigation - Control + arrow key(s) (Mac: you can also use Command). These shortcuts are "must know" if you work with large sets of data. They let you move to the edges of the data instantly, without tedious scrolling.
  13. Fill handle - double click that little square at the bottom right of any selection. While not a keyboard shortcut, it's still one of the most powerful features in Excel, because it will copy a formula (or a pattern) down a column to the bottom of a table in one click.
  14. Insert / delete columns and rows - To insert: with an entire row or column selected, use Control+ Shift ++ (Mac: Control + I, but in 2016, same as Win) . To delete: with an entire row or column selected, use Control + - .
  15. Edit cell - F2 (Mac: control + U) to enter "edit mode" for the active cell without taking your hands off the keyboard.
  16. Enter multiple cells - Control + Enter. Whenever you want to enter the same value or formula in more than one cell at a time. You'll be surprised how often you use it once you understand how it works. 
  17. Format cells - Control + 1 (Command + 1). Most people know this as the shortcut for the Format Cells dialog, but you can also use it to format almost anything in Excel, without care about the state of the ribbon. Try it.
  18. Select visible cells only - Alt + ; (Mac: command + shift + Z). The trick to copying only what you see. Priceless when you're manually hiding rows and columns. 
  19. New Table - Control + T.  Very handy when you want to convert a set of data to a "proper" Excel table with filters and formatting. Tables are a powerful and convenient way to handle lots of data easily.
  20. Toggle formulas on and off - Control + `. A very fast way to (temporarily) reveal all formulas in a worksheet. Use it again to turn formulas off again.
This tip is award winning! Thank you!! - Eileen
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