All hands on keyboard

February 21, 2019

One of the things that I noticed when I started using Excel is that I tend to always keep my hands on the keyboard and using shortcut keys to perform functions that would have been done with a mouse. Trying to remember all the shortcuts is sometimes a challenge but I’ll list off a few that I tend to use most frequently.


Tab allows you to move from one cell selection to the next and holding down Shift and tapping Tab moves to the previous cell selection.

In most other programs Tab is used for indenting but Excel did not incorporate this. The indent function is only performed by selecting the indent button. There used to be a short cut for indenting however since Windows 7 came out with application switcher it took priority over the indent capabilities in Excel.

The other main functionality of Tab is auto-completing formulas. This makes for quick and easy formula selection. Only a few letters are required and then hit tab to select the first choice in the list. Or hit the down arrow to move through selections and hit tab on the selected choice.

Lastly,using Tab to go through a table selection. When a table is created Tab key will wrap to the beginning of the first column in the table. Also, if you reach the bottom of the table tab can be used to add another row.

Shift + Space and Control + Space

This is away to quick select a full row or full column. Or maybe the entire worksheet.It’s neat command that’s not obvious at first but once used with other functions you see the need for it or purpose.

How to use it. For row selections, hold shift and then tap the spacebar. Similarly for column selections hold control and tap the spacebar.

On it’sown to select entire rows or columns doesn’t have much purpose but the this is meant to be used together with deleting rows or columns. To delete a row you need to select the entire row or column. With the mouse this is typically done by clicking the 1, 2, 3… Rows heading or A, B, C… Column headings. Once selected you would right click on the row or column and select delete. However,to perform all this with the keyboard I typically select the row or column(with shift + space or control + space) and then tap Alt, tap e, tab d.

  • e = Edit
  • d = Delete

Quick Formatting

When you need to quickly setup your excel file with quick formats. It doesn't seem like this is much of a time saver but it's just as easy. I find it keeps me focused on the work I'm doing rather then taking my attention away to where to fine the format in the ribbon bar.

Excel calls this accounting formats, they are basically formatting the selected cell to the different categories. These are as follows:

  • Number with two decimal     places
  • Time
  • Date
  • Currency
  • Percentage
  • Scientific notation

To change between the different formats you select the cell that you want to change formatting for and then hold down control and shift at the same time and hit 1,2,3,4,5 or 6. You will see the different formatting changes happen as you are tapping the numbers.

Quick Access Toolbar

This this useful for when it’s difficult to get to setting that you always use. There are many different ways to use excel and many different setting. Not all setting have shortcut keys, and hitting ALT and then a combination of letter and numbers is not the most efficient way to set things up. Sometime you might not want to take the time to learn the combination. You just want to start using a quick shortcut that you think should have been incorporated into excel. For all this there is the quick access toolbar. This is also not just an excel specific function. This toolbar exists in all Microsoft Office Suite software and the setup is the same.