Today’s post is by Account Associate Bailey Lau, conqueror of huge data files.

In my PPC career of wading through huge sheets of data and creating super-detailed reports, I’ve found that the most time-consuming part of using Excel is switching from typing on my keyboard to using my mouse. It breaks my rhythm and adds time to my work that I can’t always afford. So I’ve learned a bunch of shortcuts on my keyboard, and it’s made me a lot more efficient.

Here are a few tips and tricks to utilizing keyboard shortcuts in Excel to accelerate your work.

Find out what the existing hot keys are and use them.

Most people know how to use CTRL+C and CTRL+V to copy and paste. The CTRL key allows you to use your keyboard to do otherwise time-consuming tasks that can be a hassle. The great thing is that there are already a good amount of combinations that can help you in your daily Excel tasks. I’m highlighting a few of my favorites that I use the most, but there are a LOT more out there. So go out there and study up!

CTRL+arrow: The combination will help you jump to the ends and beginnings of your data. For example: if you have a column and you want to get to the cell at the bottom, you’d use CTRL+down. If you want to go back to the top, CTRL+up will bring you back to the top of the column. You can also add the SHIFT key into the mix to select all of your data. Try starting at the top of your column and using…

CTRL+SHIFT+down: This selects all of the data in the column, which is great when combined with this next step:

CTRL+SHIFT+L: This creates a filter on your data sheet. This one is super-handy for when you need to sort through any data.

Excel data filter

When hot keys aren’t enough, use the ALT key to navigate the menu.

Learning how to use the alt key will help you go through tasks quicker and more smoothly than using a mouse. When I first started using Excel on a daily basis, I only knew how to use the CTRL key to speed up my work. But when I needed to create a pivot table or paste as values, I had to use my mouse and navigate the menu. Instead of using your mouse to navigate through the menu, the ALT key will take your Excel menu and assign each item a letter. The ALT key transforms the menu into a navigable keyboard with endless possibilities. Hit the ALT key and your menu should look like this:

alt keyboard excel shortcuts

As you can see, the main tabs have been each assigned a letter. When you type that letter on your keyboard, you open up the next layer of options. To create a pivot table, you would hit N to select the Insert tab.

alt keyboard Excel shortcuts

After selecting the Insert tab using the ALT+N combination, there is a new layer of letter options. Next, hit V and then T.

excel keyboard shortcuts

Using ALT+N+V+T, you’ve just created a pivot table for your data that took less time than if you were to use your mouse. If you ever need to exit the ALT menu at any time or need to go back, you can use the ESC key to cancel the ALT menu. 

Here are a few more ALT and CTRL combos that I use frequently:

ALT+HOR: Rename sheet

ALT+HOI: resize columns to fit data

ALT+HVV: paste as values

ALT+A+M: remove duplicates

The awesome thing about the CTRL and ALT keys is that you can do basically any command in Excel using your keyboard. There’s no need to switch to a mouse and click excessively. Using a combination of keyboard shortcuts with the CTRL and ALT keys, you’ll work faster and more efficiently.

Take the time to study up on existing CTRL commands and play with the ALT key and figure out the commands you would use the most. It may take some time getting used to using them and memorizing the sequences, but it’ll definitely be worth it in the long run!

– Bailey Lau, Account Associate

1 Comment

  1. Dave Bruns April 14th, 2014

    Nice article. One thing that’s kind of frustrating is that driving the ribbon with the keyboard only works in Windows, not on a Mac. Maybe when the next version of Mac Office ships later this year…

    We’ve collected a list of over 200 Excel shortcuts here:

    The list shows both Windows and Mac, side-by side, which is handy if you need to use Excel on both platforms.

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Bailey Lau
Bailey joined 3Q Digital in September of 2012 after interning at Internet Marketing Inc. in San Diego. Bailey graduated from UC San Diego in 2012 with a bachelor's degree in Sociology. She loves finding new places to eat, watching sports, and playing softball and football. She currently works for