10 Microsoft Excel Tips


These 10 Microsoft Excel tricks will help reduce the furrowed brows, squinted eyes, and hair-pulling that often plagues Excel users.

  1. Escape! The Escape key is a sort of “back-up” key. If you’ve started typing in a cell but then changed your mind, press the Escape key. Your cell is now empty. If you’ve accidentally clicked on the “File” or “Edit” menu, press “Escape.” The menu collapses. You may have to tap Escape repeatedly for some processes. So hit it once, twice, as much as you like—doesn’t it feel good? It doesn’t work for everything, but it certainly doesn’t hurt! Remember: “When in trouble, escape.” There's a reason it's number one in the list of 10 Microsoft Excel tricks.
  2. Use the keyboard to select cells. Next in the list of 10 Microsoft Excel tricks is one that allows you to get around efficiently on those days where your hangover-induced hand-to-mouse flexibility is lacking. Instead, use your keyboard to select cells. Press the arrow keys and watch your selection tool move around the spreadsheet. Press the Shift key to select adjacent cells.
  3. Select all. Need to change the font of the entire spreadsheet? The quickest method is to press and hold the “Ctrl” key, then press the letter “A.” This selects all content. Ctrl+A: it's a hot function in our 10 Microsoft Excel tricks list.
  4. Right-click in a cell. Move your mouse to any cell and then click the right mouse button. A context menu appears with several options for this cell. Scroll through the menu and select an option. It’s safe, it’s easy, and it’s free of side effects. Don’t want any of those selections? Refer to Tip #1.
  5. Right-click in the menu bars. Besides right-clicking in a cell, you can also exercise your right to right-click in the menus at the top of your screen. Missing your Formatting menu? Right-click in the menu bar area and view all available menus, then make your selection. It’s one of the 10 Microsoft Excel tricks not many people know about.
  6. The magic of auto-fill. Do you want to create a list of cells that show the working hours in each day, such as: “8:00, 9:00, 10:00,” etc.? Type “8:00” in the first cell, then press Enter. Select the cell with “8:00” inside and look for the tiny dark square in the lower right corner of the cell outline. Position your pointer over that square, and it changes to a small black plus sign. Using this plus sign, click-and-drag down a few more cells, then release. Notice the cells have filled in with ascending times. This works with dates, days of the week, and more.
  7. Renaming and re-coloring tabs. Move your mouse pointer down to the lower left of your Excel screen, positioning it on top of the “Sheet 1” tab. Right-click on it, then choose “Rename” from the context menu that appears. Type a new name, such as “January,” then press Enter. You can also change the color of your sheet tab—select that item in the context menu and choose “Tab Color.” This is a great way to draw attention to special sheets within your workbook.
  8. Control tricks for everyone. Who doesn’t love exercising control? This Microsoft Excel trick will help speed up your processes with some quick-and-dirty clicking: Ctrl+S: Saves your file; Ctrl+P: Brings up your “Print” screen; Ctrl+O: Opens a new workbook; Ctrl+Home: Moves your selection to cell A1—the very first cell in the spreadsheet. Thanks to Lynda.com for some of these top-notch control tricks.
  9. The best Windows “Alt” trick nobody knows about. When you’re calculating your next bonus in Excel and a nosy coworker walks up, hit Alt+Tab! Important: make sure you have another program open that features work-related content. Your computer will minimize the Excel program and instantly “jump” to another active program. Pressing “Alt” while tapping “Tab” multiple times will scroll you through your active programs; when you release the “Alt” key, you’ll “jump” to that program. (PS: Alt+Tab works in just about any Windows-based program.)
  10. In closing, we would be remiss if we didn’t give you one more "top" 10 Microsoft Excel tip that quickly closes the program. Alt+F4.
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