Excel shortcuts are great. With practise they help you automate what you’re doing with your modelling. With time you can get to the point where it feels like you’re doing two things at once. Using a shortcut to do something (almost) automatically, plus thinking ahead to what you want to do next. Familiarity with shortcuts, although difficult at first, ends up making the time you spend working in Excel easier and more satisfying. That’s the payback should you decide to invest some time in learning Excel keyboard shortcuts.
A shortcut for expanding the formula bar: “Ctrl shift U”
Here’s a handy shortcut we came across the other day. It expands the formula bar e.g. if you are reading a cell that contains a lot of data. Click on the cell that contains the text then “Ctrl shift U” is what you need. If you press this combination once it will expand the formula bar so you can read what’s in it. If you press it again the shortcut will reduce the formula bar to one row deep. You may find yourself wanting to use it e.g. if you’re wading through Excel spreadsheets that contain lots of text.
Adding an extra line break as a hidden character: “Alt Enter”
If you’re working with long text entries in Excel (or indeed, long formulas) and want to place different sections on different lines, press “Alt” then “Enter” (at the same time) between the different elements of the entry. “Alt Enter” will insert a line break inside your cell, placing different elements on a new line. Then you can press “Ctrl shift U” to see the whole entry.
If you fancy starting to use shortcuts it can be a little bit intimidating at first. If you start searching on the internet you’ll find there are hundreds and the idea of having to learn them all can be a little bit scary.
The very best Excel shortcuts
Although there are hundreds of shortcuts out there, the good news is most competent modellers only use a few tens, probably starting with the mighty “Alt” key. Press “Alt” when you’ve got Excel open and you’ll notice some letters appear. Next press the letter you’re interested in (e.g. “H” for the home tab) and you’ll start to realise that you can run Excel from your keyboard.
Much of the time that’s what the people who look like shortcut pros will be doing: just running certain regular keyboard combinations starting with the “Alt” key. Use the “Alt” key often enough and you’ll quickly learn that it’s “H” for the home tab. You’ll memorise that part and then a bit more for the things you do most regularly (e.g. “Alt”, “H”, “B” for borders) and pretty soon you’ll have a lot more memorised. Pretty soon you’ll be running your favourite keyboard sequences without thinking. Pretty soon you’ll be looking like a keyboard shortcut maestro yourself. The key is to start by forcing yourself to try and do pretty much everything from the “Alt” key.
A collection of the very best keyboard shortcuts
We’ve created a collection of the our favourite keyboard moves just for you (including the mighty “Alt” key): best Excel shortcuts. You’ll be glad to know that it’s only a few tens. A great modeller doesn’t need to know hundreds. That’s the great news here.