10 Essential Excel Shortcuts for Busy Professionals!

By Chris Newman •  Updated: 12/21/23 •  6 min read
How to create multiline text in ribbon tooltips with Excel.

Excel Keyboard Shortcuts You Should Be Using!

In today's fast-paced professional world, efficiency isn't just a buzzword—it's a necessity. As someone who has navigated the intricate labyrinths of Microsoft Excel for years, I've come to appreciate the power of mastering keyboard shortcuts. They are not just time-savers; they're career accelerators. Excel, with its complex formulas and vast data management capabilities, can often feel overwhelming. Yet, the difference between feeling tethered to your spreadsheet and manipulating it with the finesse of a maestro often comes down to a handful of keystrokes.

Through trial, error, and countless hours of fine-tuning spreadsheet data, I've distilled my knowledge into the 10 Excel shortcuts that have had the largest impact on my productivity, speed, and efficiency. These shortcuts are more than just tricks of the trade; they are essential tools for anyone looking to elevate their Excel game and, by extension, their professional performance.

Whether you're compiling quarterly reports, analyzing financial statements, or managing a database, integrating these shortcuts into your daily Excel routine can drastically reduce your workload and enhance your output. Let's dive into these game-changers, ensuring that your time spent in Excel is both minimal and mighty.

01. Shortcuts to Copy/Cut/Paste

The Copy (Ctrl + C) and Paste (Ctrl + V) shortcuts are fundamental in Excel, allowing you to quickly duplicate data, formulas, or text from one location to another. This capability is essential for efficient data management, enabling rapid duplication of information without the need for tedious manual entry. Whether you're replicating a set of figures across multiple sheets or copying a formula down a column, these shortcuts save valuable time and ensure accuracy in data handling.

02. Shortcuts to Add/Delete Rows or Columns

Adding (Ctrl + Shift + "+") and deleting (Ctrl + "-") rows or columns with keyboard shortcuts streamlines the process of modifying your spreadsheet's structure. These actions are common when you're organizing data, accommodating new information, or removing unnecessary details. By mastering these shortcuts, you can swiftly adjust the layout of your worksheet to meet your data analysis needs, enhancing the overall efficiency of your workflow.

03. Shortcut to Repeat Your Last Spreadsheet Action

The F4 key allows you to repeat your last action, such as formatting or inserting a cell, which is incredibly useful for applying the same changes across different areas of your spreadsheet without having to redo the steps manually. This shortcut is vital for maintaining consistency and efficiency, especially in large datasets where similar actions are frequently required. It's the shortcut that can virtually do it all!

04. Shortcut to Toggle Dollar Signs In Your Formulas

Toggling dollar signs (F4) in cell references will switch between relative, absolute, and mixed references in formulas. This shortcut is crucial for creating flexible and accurate formulas that behave correctly when copied to different cells. Understanding and using this functionality can significantly reduce errors in calculations and save time during spreadsheet modeling.

05. Shortcuts to Find/Replace Text

The Find (Ctrl + F) and Replace (Ctrl + H) shortcuts are indispensable for quickly locating specific data within large datasets and making bulk modifications. Whether you're updating figures, correcting errors, or altering text, these shortcuts facilitate rapid changes across your entire document, ensuring data integrity and consistency with minimal effort.

06. Shortcut to Save As

Using the Save As shortcut (F12) is crucial for creating different versions of your workbook, backing up your work, or saving files in various formats. Instead of having to spend multiple clicks navigating through Excel's File menu, you can use F12 to directly open up the Save As dialog box and get your file saved in a few seconds.

07. Shortcut to Open File

The Open File shortcut (Ctrl + o) provides quick access to your list of recent documents or enables you to navigate to specific files. This is a basic yet essential function, facilitating smooth transitions between tasks and improving your workflow by minimizing the time spent searching for documents.

08. Shortcut to Create A Table

Creating a table (Ctrl + t) in Excel instantly organizes your data into a structured format, complete with sorting and filtering options. Tables are fundamental for analyzing data, as they provide a clear and concise way to display information, making it easier to understand patterns, trends, and discrepancies within your dataset. They also create dynamic ranges that expand/contract as your data changes, which can provide HUGE benefits when you need to reference them via formulas or VBA code.

09. Shortcut to Insert Subtotal

The Autosum feature (Alt + "=") is key for summarizing data, allowing you to quickly calculate totals below or beside a range of numbers. Don't waste time typing out the SUM function and selecting a range, when the Autosum shortcut can be easily called from your keyboard!

10. Shortcut to Undo Last Action

The Undo shortcut (Ctrl + z) is a lifesaver in Excel, allowing you to quickly revert your last action. Whether it's an accidental deletion, an incorrect entry, or an unwanted formatting change, this shortcut helps you rectify mistakes instantly. The ability to undo actions is vital for maintaining the integrity of your data and ensuring that your spreadsheet remains error-free.

It's a feature that's used frequently in the day-to-day manipulation of data, as it provides a safety net, allowing users to experiment and make changes with the reassurance that they can easily backtrack if necessary. This level of flexibility and control is essential for efficient data management, encouraging a more dynamic and less cautious approach to working with Excel. By mastering the Undo shortcut, you can significantly speed up your workflow and reduce the risk of permanent errors in your documents, making it an indispensable tool in any Excel user's arsenal.

A Cheat Sheet For These Top 10 Shortcuts

Excel Shortcut NameKeyboard Shortcut
Copyctrl + c
Cutctrl + x
Pastectrl + v
Insert Row or Columnctrl + shift + +
Delete Row or Columnctrl + -
Repeat Last ActionF4
Toggle Formula Dollar SignsF4
Findctrl + f
Find and Replacectrl + h
Save AsF12
Open Filectrl + o
Create Excel Tablectrl + t
Insert Subtotalalt + =
Undo Last Actionctrl + z

What Are Your Favorite “Basic” Excel Shortcuts? What Did I Miss?

There are hundreds of Excel shortcuts available to us and this article just covered a handful that I use regularly throughout my workday. What shortcuts would you recommend someone learn that they would get extreme value from? Let us all know in the comments section below!

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Chris Newman

Chris Newman

Chris is a finance professional and Excel MVP recognized by Microsoft since 2016. With his expertise, he founded TheSpreadsheetGuru blog to help fellow Excel users, where he shares his vast creative solutions & expertise. In addition, he has developed over 7 widely-used Excel Add-ins that have been embraced by individuals and companies worldwide.