Excel Tips and Tricks

Once we learn how to perform an action in Excel, we tend to continue to use the same method repeatedly.

Sometimes, we think there must be an easier way to do the task, but we don't know how, or we don't want to spend time and effort finding out how. We therefore continue to use the same old method, that we know will get the desired result ... eventually!

Many of the most simple Excel shortcuts perform some of the most frequently used tasks. With this in mind, this page focuses those Excel tips and tricks (including some of the most useful Excel keyboard shortcuts), that you might use on a daily basis.

If you spend just a few minutes learning these tips and tricks, you can, in the long-term, save hours of time when developing your spreadsheets. In just a short time, you will look back and wonder how you ever managed without them!

Insert a New Line Inside an Excel Cell:

To insert a new line while editing an Excel cell, simply press ALT-RETURN.

I.e. Press the Alt key and keep this pressed down while you press Return.

Freeze Rows at the Top of a Workbook:

To freeze one or more rows of data at the top of your workbook, select the row below the row(s) that you want to freeze. Then, from the Excel menu at the top of your workbook :

  • In Excel 2007, 2010 or 2013: Select View->Freeze Panes->Freeze Panes
OR
  • In Excel 2003: Select Window->Freeze Panes

Similarly,

  • To freeze columns at the left of your workbook, Select the column to the right of the columns that you want to freeze and then select the Freeze Panes option.
  • To freeze rows at the top and columns on left of your workbook, Select the cell below and to the right of the rows and columns that you want to freeze and then select the Freeze Panes option.
  • To unfreeze the rows or columns in a sheet, select View->Freeze Panes->Unfreeze Panes
    (or Window->Unfreeze Panes in Excel 2003).
Freeze Panes Option
To freeze top row and first column, select cell B2 and select the Freeze Panes option

View Two Sheets of a Workbook Simultaneously

If you want to view more than one page of a workbook, you can use the "New Window" option, which can be located in the 'View' menu of the latest versions of Excel (or in the 'Window' drop-down menu of Excel 2003). This opens up a second window for the current workbook, so that you can view different worksheets of the same workbook in one Excel viewer.

The best way to arrange the two windows is to use Excel's automatic 'Arrange' command (again, located in the 'View' menu of recent versions of Excel or the 'Window' drop-down menu of Excel 2003). Alternatively, you could size the windows manually in the Excel viewer.

Having two windows open for one Excel file is much more convenient than having to repeatedly switch from one worksheet to the other!

Use Zoom to View the Named Ranges in a Worksheet

If you use the Excel Zoom to view your worksheet at a zoom level of less than 40%, Excel automatically displays all the named ranges in the worksheet.

Zoom at Less Than 40% Displaying Named Ranges

Use F4 to Cycle Through Relative and Absolute References

If you type a simple reference in your cell (eg. A1) and then decide you want to change this to be a relative reference, while your cell is still in edit mode, simply press F4.

This will change your reference from A1 to $A$1. Repeatedly pressing the F4 key cycles your reference through the 4 different combinations of absolute and relative references:

A1
$A$1
A$1
$A1

Use CTRL-PageDown and CTRL-PageUp to Cycle Through Worksheets

To quickly move to the next worksheet in your workbook, use CTRL-PageDown (ie. press the CTRL key and while this is held down, press the PageDown button)

To quickly move to the previous worksheet in your workbook, use CTRL-PageUp

Copy a Function Down to Other Rows in a Spreadsheet:

If you want to copy a function down to further rows, there are a number of ways to do this:


1. Use the fill handle

Fill Handle

The fill handle is the tiny square on the bottom right of a selected cell or selected cell range. Use this to copy a function to other rows by either:

  • Selecting the fill handle with the mouse and dragging it down to further rows.
    This copies the contents of the top cell to the cells below.
OR
  • Selecting the fill handle with the mouse and then double-clicking with the left-hand mouse button.
    This copies the contents of the top cell to the cells below up to the end of the current data range.

2. Use CTRL-D to Copy

Pressing CTRL-D copies data, depending upon the current selection:

  • If a single cell or cells in a single row are selected, CTRL-D copies the contents from the row above the selected range, into the selected range.
  • If a cells in more than one row are selected, CTRL-D copies the contents from the top row of the selected range, into all other rows of the selected range.

Therefore, in order to copy a function down to other rows in a spreadsheet, select the range that you want to copy the cell down to including the original cell to be copied and then press CTRL-D.


3. Use Copy & Paste

The copy and paste commands can be performed by the following shortcuts:

  • CTRL-C copies the current selected cell or range of cells;
  • CTRL-V pastes the current selected cell or range of cells.

Therefore, in order to copy a function down to other rows in a spreadsheet, first copy (CTRL-C) the first cell, then select the range that you want to copy the cell into and paste (CTRL-V).

Select a Range of Cells

There are several ways to select a large range of cells. The most obvious is to simply highlight one cell and press the left mouse key, while dragging the mouse across the range you want to select. However, if you want to select hundreds of rows at a time, this can take forever!

A number of faster methods are listed below:


1. Shift Key + Left Mouse Button

  • Use the left mouse key to click on a cell (or row or column) at the top of the range to be selected
  • If the end of the cell range is outside of the visible range, use the scrollbars to navigate to the end of the region to be selected
  • Press Shift and while keeping the Shift key depressed, select the cell at the end (bottom right) of the range to be selected

2. Type the Range Into the Name Box

The name box is situated on the top left of your Excel spreadsheet, and typically shows the address of the currently selected cell or cell range.

One way to select a range is to simply type the range into the Name Box. So, for example,

  • Typing A1:A500 into the name box selects the cell range A1 - A500
  • Typing A:E into the name box selects the columns A - E
  • Typing 1:500 into the name box selects the rows 1 - 500

3. Ctrl / Shift Keys + Arrow Keys

A combination of the CTRL key, the SHIFT key and the Arrow keys can be used to select ranges on your spreadsheet. The key combinations work as follows

SHIFT   ↓ -Moves the current selected range down a row
SHIFT   → -Moves the current selected range right by one column
CTRL-SHIFT   ↓   -Selects all cells below the current selection up to the next cell containing a value
CTRL-SHIFT   → -Selects all cells to the right of the current selection up to the next cell containing a value

The best way to familiarise yourself with these commands is to experiment with them.

For more Excel tips and tricks, visit the exceltips.com website