For business users of Microsoft Excel Free guides and templates

Excel Shortcuts

Five Really Useful Excel Keyboard Shortcuts

These keyboard shortcuts will help you to things in Excel that are difficult or time-consuming to do any other way.

by Charley Kyd, MBA
Microsoft Excel MVP, 2005-2014
The Father of Spreadsheet Dashboard Reports

Several years ago, I created my Complete Excel Shortcuts Workbook. It contains more that 250 keyboard shortcuts we can use when the workbook is active.

I created the workbook as a reference, because I didn’t know of any other source that had them all. I’m fairly certain that this workbook is complete, because thousands of people have downloaded it and I’ve added the few additional shortcuts that Excel users have sent my way.

Most Excel users use some of the shortcuts frequently, like Ctrl+c and Ctrl+v.  But here are five shortcuts that aren’t as well-known, and that I use almost daily. I think you’ll find them worth remembering:

1. Excel Shortcut to Get Help for a Worksheet Function

Suppose you need to read the help topic for a worksheet function, say the MATCH function. When you type…


…in your formula bar, you’ll see something like this:

Excel shortcut to get help for a worksheet function.

Press Ctrl+a or click the icon where the red arrow points to launch the Function Arguments dialog for the function. This dialog gives you a form that you can fill in for each argument. The dialog also provides short help for the function and for each argument.

If you want more extensive help about the function, click the hyperlinked “Help on this function” text in the bottom-left of the Function Arguments dialog. Clicking this text is the fastest and easiest way I’ve found to launch the full help topic for any built-in worksheet function.

2 & 3. Excel Shortcuts to Change Cell Borders

To apply an outside border to the selected area(s) of your worksheet, press: Ctrl+Shift+7

This is the first of my two favorite shortcuts.

To remove all borders from the selected cells, press: Ctrl+Shift+- (minus)

I don’t know of any other shortcut key combinations that can change borders without first launching the Format Cells dialog.

4. Excel Shortcut to Format the Selected Object

This is the second of my two favorite shortcuts...

To launch the Properties or the Format dialog for the selected object (a cell, a drawing object, a chart object, etc.), type: Ctrl+1

This shortcut is particularly necessary in charts, when it’s sometimes difficult to right-click an object in order to launch its Properties dialog. So, if necessary, select any object in the chart, push the up or down arrow—or the left or right arrow for finer control—until you select the object you want to format. Then type Ctrl+1 to launch the Properties dialog for the selected object.

5. Excel Shortcut to Check the Accuracy of a Range Name or Other Cell Reference

Suppose you’ve written a formula that uses a range name that returns a cell reference, or a formula that uses a function that returns a cell reference (like the OFFSET or INDEX functions).  And suppose you now want to check that the reference actually points to the area you think it does.

For example, suppose you enter this formula…


…in a cell and you want to check that the OFFSET function really is returning the area you want to sum. To do so…

1. In your formula bar, select the text that returns the reference you want to check, like this:

First step to check the accuracy of a range name or other cell reference

2. Press Ctrl+c to copy the selected text.

3. Press Esc to return to the Ready mode.

4. Press Ctrl+g or F5 to launch the Go To dialog.

5. Press Ctrl+v to paste your copied text into the Reference edit box of the Go To dialog.

6. Choose OK.

When you do so, Excel selects the range to which the reference points. Here, for example, it would select the range A3:A4.

By the way, whenever you use the Go To dialog to select a new range, Excel sets up the range you’ve just left as the default range. Therefore, if you want to return to your original range, press Ctrl+g, Enter. To toggle back, press Ctrl+g, Enter again…and so on.

Take Your Next Steps

If you're looking for additional help with this topic, I can help you in three ways. To learn more, see Excel Training, Coaching, and Consulting.


Free Excel Dashboards

Charley's SwipeFile charts