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Tickling the Keyboard: 10 Spreadsheet Tips

Basic shortcuts to smooth the use of Excel.

• Creating Charts. While it’s easy to use Excel’s charting wizard to format, produce, and customize a variety of graphs, its step-by-step process is tedious. This is particularly the case if you create the same charts over and over again. By hitting F11, you can instantly turn any highlighted numerical sequence into a chart.

• Cut, Copy, and Paste. The “Edit” menu selection in Excel can be used to copy, cut, and paste any cell on a sheet. Better yet, there’s a series of keys that can do it without touching the mouse. Control-C copies the cell’s contents, while Control-X cuts it. After figuring out where it should go, type Control-V and the cell’s contents are automatically pasted into the new spot. The best part is that these keyboard shortcuts work in any Microsoft Office application and are the most used.

• Selecting Cells. To grab a bunch of Excel cells, you can run the mouse over an entire region to highlight them. But that takes time, and with large spreadsheets, it’s hard to do. Let the program do the heavy work by highlighting the first cell, typing Control-Shift, and then typing the down arrow to fill in the column, or the right or left arrows to fill in rows.

• Formatting for Fun and Profit. Like other Microsoft Office products, Excel lets you specify how each character will look in minute detail. The quickest and easiest way to do this is to type Control-1 to open the formatting box or Alt-’ to get to the style box. You’re sure to find what you’re looking for in one of them. Another cool trick is to use a border to add emphasis to or highlight a section of a spreadsheet by hitting Control-Shift and “&”; “Control-Shift _” will get rid of a border. A big favorite for financial types is typing Control-Shift and “$” to automatically turn a cell or highlighted row or column into a dollars-and-cents format.

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