Excel Is Awesome: 31 Excel Keyboard Shortcuts (Part 1)

In my next two posts, I want to share some of my favorite keyboard shortcuts–31 awesome Excel keyboard shortcuts, to be precise. First, though, let me tell you something. I HAAAAAAAAAAAAAATE switching back and forth between the keyboard and mouse while I’m working on a computer. I hate it! Who’s with me? I don’t know why, but I loathe jumping from my keyboard to my mouse and back to my keyboard. It’s such a waste of precious milliseconds, and my tangent-jumping brain wastes enough milliseconds without having to waste more on unnecessary mouse-clicks…

Anyway, because I hate the keyboard-mouse-keyboard jump as much as I do, I want to be sure everyone out there is aware of my favorite, most-used keyboard shortcuts. If this doesn’t pull you over into Camp Excel Nerd, I don’t know what will! Errrmmmm… Okay, just kidding (mostly). Seriously, though, the next time you’re navigating through a spreadsheet, try out a couple of these bad boys. See if they don’t make your task a bit more enjoyable (or at least a little less cumbersome). Believe it or not, Excel is a tool that is meant to save us time and to improve our efficiencies. Using keyboard shortcuts is one way to do that!

Today, I’ll be sharing about half of the 31 shortcuts. You’ll have to stay tuned for the next post to learn the others!

Obligatory disclaimer: This list is by no means meant to be an exhaustive list. This is simply a list of the shortcuts I find myself using on a regular basis. Some are very basic; some are tailored more towards the type of analysis I tend to complete, so they may or may not be of benefit to you. Either way, these shortcuts have increased my own efficiency in completing my tasks and projects, so I’m excited to share them with you!

Note: Many of these shortcuts work across the Microsoft Office Suite, so play around with them the next time you’re typing a Word document, building a PowerPoint presentation, or composing an email in Outlook!

Copy Ctrl+C


You guys, these first two shortcuts are the very first keyboard shortcuts I learned. (I promise that I don’t have a story for every shortcut!) I was an undergrad helping a PhD candidate, Erica, with some data entry for one of her research projects. Erica noticed that I was painstakingly using my mouse to select a cell, right-click, click “Copy,” select the cell designated to receive the copied cell contents, right-click, and click “Paste.”

Ugh! I get stressed now even thinking about that highly inefficient process. Anyway, Erica said, “Hey, let me show you a couple of shortcuts,” and she proceeded to teach me to use Ctrl + C to copy and Ctrl + V (coming up next) to paste. Not gonna lie… this was the first mind-blowing Excel experience of my life! Erica, if by chance you’re reading now:  a million thanks for this and everything else you taught me!

Okay, back to the task at hand: Ctrl + C copies the selected cell(s), including cell formatting, formulas, etc., and leaves the original content intact.

Paste Ctrl+V


Ctrl + V pastes the material you copied with Ctrl + C. Just pick the cell where you want the copied content to land, then use Ctrl + V to paste away!

Cut Ctrl+V


Ctrl + X is similar to Ctrl + C, except instead of just copying the selected content, Ctrl + X cuts or removes the content from its original location. After using Ctrl + X to cut your selection, you can use Ctrl + V to paste it in a new location.

Undo Ctrl+Z


Have you ever felt that moment of panic when you realize that you absolutely, without a doubt, did NOT mean to do what you just did? Never fear! Ctrl + Z is here!

Ctrl + Z is a lifesaver. Okay, maybe I’m being a little dramatic… but Ctrl + Z can definitely be a timesaver. Ctrl + Z undoes the havoc you unintentionally wreaked on your spreadsheet. When you accidentally delete your entire data selection, Ctrl + Z brings it back, like magic! Beware, however: there are some things that even Ctrl + Z can’t manage to resuscitate.

Redo Ctrl+Y


Sometimes, I’ve been known to be a little over-zealous in my use of Ctrl + Z. In those cases, Ctrl + Y comes into play. Ctrl + Y is your “redo” shortcut. If you Ctrl + Z to undo something and realize you didn’t actually want to undo it, simply use Ctrl + Y to redo your undo. With me?

Bold Ctrl+B


If you’re putting together some kind of dataset, you may want your column headings, chart or table title, or some other text selection to be displayed in bolded print. To do this, select the cells containing the text you wish to bold, and press Ctrl + B. Voila! Bold.

Underline Ctrl+U


Use Ctrl + U to underline text in selected cells.

Italicize Ctrl+I


Use Ctrl + I to italicize the text in selected cells.

Find Ctrl+F


Especially helpful in large datasets, Ctrl + F opens the “Find” dialog box. This allows you to search for exact words, phrases, etc.

Replace Ctrl+H


Let’s say you’re manually updating a report, and you know you need to replace every instance of a certain word or phrase. For example, let’s say that you need to replace “August” with “September.” Use Ctrl + H to open the “find and replace” dialog box. This is similar to Ctrl + F; however, after Excel finds the designated text in your dataset, Excel will replace each instance of the designated text with your new text.

Paste Special Ctrl+Alt+V

Paste Special

Paste special: one of my favorite and most utilized shortcuts. If I’m pasting data from an external source, including from another Excel workbook, but I don’t want to paste any of the formats, I use Ctrl + Alt + V to paste only the text, only the values, or only the “whatever” it is that I want. There are several options available with Ctrl + Atl + V, so next time you’re pasting something into a spreadsheet, give it a whirl!

Move Up Down Over Ctrl+Arrow

Move to Beginning or End of Row or Column

These next three are some of my favorite keyboard shortcuts. Whether you’re dealing with a dozen lines of data or one million, this is definitely one to keep in your repertoire!

If you’re at the top of your dataset and want to move to the bottom, use Ctrl + ↓ to quickly jump to the bottom. Similarly, Ctrl + ↑ moves you up, Ctrl + → moves you to the right, and Ctrl + ← moves you to the left. It’s truly a remarkable thing!

Select Adjacent Cell Shift+Arrow

Select an Adjacent Cell

Another great one! If you need to select the contents of a few adjacent cells, this is a great way to select them. Simply use Shift + [appropriate arrow key], and you will select adjacent cells one by one.

What if you need to select a block of cells that is, for example, five cells wide by three cells high? Starting in the top left cell of the block, use Shift + → until you have selected everything widthwise. Then, switch to Shift + ↓ to select the additional rows.

Select Row or Column Ctrl+Shift+Arrow

Select an Entire Row or Column

The last of these handy little navigation/selection shortcuts, this is probably the one I use most often. If I need to select an entire row or an entire column, this is how I do it! I often use Ctrl + Shift + ↓ followed by Ctrl + Shift + → to select an entire data range—although there’s an even quicker way to do that with a shortcut we’ll see later. (Old habits die hard, I suppose!)

Create Table Ctrl+T

Create a Table

We’ll discuss this in detail in another post, but this is another one that I use in most, if not all, of my workbooks. Select any cell within your data range, then hit Ctrl + T to turn your data range into a dynamic table. Believe me: you’re going to love tables! I can’t wait to teach you more about them.

Insert a Pivot Table

Ahhh, pivot tables: quite possibly the single feature in Excel that can make you look like a rock star to everyone else around you who doesn’t understand them. Pivot tables are a feature in Excel that allows us to summarize datasets, both large and small, in easy-to-read tables. When you need to view your KPIs, this is where you start!

Pivot tables are also a topic that will be discussed in detail later in this series. To insert a pivot table, first press Alt + N to toggle the options from your “Insert” tab in the ribbon, then press V to select “pivot table.” We’ll go through pivot table setup later, but feel free to play around with them yourself until then!

Stay Tuned!

That’s all for today, friends! I hope you learned some new keyboard shortcuts or perhaps remembered a couple that you had forgotten. I’ll see you back here next time when I share the rest of my favorites. Until then, do any of you remember the first shortcuts you learned? And did it totally blow your mind to learn them–or is that just me? Share your memories below in the comments!

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