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Excel Keyboard Shortcuts

Before we get started, take out a small screwdriver or key and pop off the F1, Scroll Lock, and Insert keys from your keyboard and store them in a safe place. You should never need them again, and you won't be a modeling bad-ass until you perform this critical step.

There are many Excel keyboard shortcuts, but we focus here only on those you might actually use and benefit from. In some cases there is more than one shortcut for a given action or command. Note that these shortcuts apply to Excel 2003 (Windows) and earlier, since most companies have not yet transitioned to a newer version. That said, many of these shortcuts work in Excel 2007 as well.

While there are several shortcuts that can be used to apply number formats, these default formats are rarely suitable for use in professional-looking financial models. Therefore, you won't find a discussion of these shortcuts here. You may want to install a third-party macro (or build your own) to create shortcuts for the custom number formats you require, if your employer has not already installed such a macro on your work computer.

Each shortcut is assigned a "utility", which represents the shortcut's time-saving potential and expected frequency of use on a scale of 1 to 5.

Basic Shortcuts

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Utility: 5
Up / Down / Left / Right – Move one cell in the specified direction.
Utility: 5
Escape – Cancel entry in the cell or Formula Bar. Also, close any open menu, submenu, dialog box, or message window.
Utility: 5
Tab – Move one cell to the right in the worksheet. Move to the next option or option group in a dialog box. Move between unlocked cells in a protected worksheet.
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Utility: 5
Alt + Tab – Toggle among all open applications and workbooks. Although not unique to Excel, this shortcut is useful for quickly toggling between a data source (e.g. 10-K) and Excel (where you enter the data), or switching to Excel from ESPN.com when your boss suddenly appears to make it look like you've been hard at work, for example.
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Utility: 5
Ctrl + C – Copy selected cell(s).
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Utility: 5
Ctrl + X – Cut selected cell(s). When the cell(s) are pasted, they are moved from their current location in the spreadsheet to the new location upon pasting.
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Utility: 5
Ctrl + V – Paste cell(s). This command is only available after copying or cutting cells, and will insert the copied/cut cell(s) at the position of the active cell.
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Utility: 5
Ctrl + B / U / I – Apply or remove bold/underline/italic formatting to text in selected cell(s).
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Utility: 5
Ctrl + Z / Y – Undo/redo the last command, if possible.
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Utility: 5
Ctrl + S – Save file. Use this often.
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Utility: 4
Shift + Tab – Does the exact opposite of what pressing the Tab key alone does.
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Utility: 3
Ctrl + N – Create a new workbook.
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Utility: 3
Ctrl + W – Close the current workbook.
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Utility: 3
Ctrl + O – Open a saved workbook.
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Utility: 2
Ctrl + P – Display the Print dialog box.
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Utility: 1
Ctrl + F – Find terms in the spreadsheet.
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Utility: 1
Ctrl + H – Replace terms in the spreadsheet with other terms.

Navigation

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Utility: 5
Alt > Ctrl + Tab – Go to the first toolbar under the Control Menu. Pressing Ctrl + Tab again will take you to the second toolbar, and so on. Use the right/left arrow keys to reach individual buttons on the toolbars and use the down arrow keys to access their drop-down menus. Press Enter to execute the selected action. Your toolbars should be arranged so that buttons you use most often (e.g. font color) are on the left side of the toolbars to minimize the number of times you must press the right arrow key to reach them.
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Utility: 5
Ctrl + Up / Down / Left / Right – Move to the top/bottom/left-most/right-most cell in a contiguous data region.
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Utility: 5
Page Up / Page Down – Move one screen up/down in a worksheet.
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Utility: 5
Alt > T > U > T – Show arrow pointing from cells upon which the active cell's calculation is dependent.
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Utility: 5
Alt > T > U > D – Show arrows pointing to cells dependent on the active cell.
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Utility: 5
Alt > T > U > A – Remove all auditing arrows created by either of the two shortcuts above.
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Utility: 4
Ctrl + Page Up / Page Down – Move to the previous/next sheet in a workbook.
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Utility: 4
Ctrl + Home / End – Move to the first (i.e. top/left) / last (i.e. bottom/right) cell in the worksheet.
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Utility: 4
Ctrl + Tab – Toggle among multiple workbooks. Similar to Alt + Tab, but toggles only among Excel workbooks rather than all open applications.
Utility: 3
F5 – Display the Go To dialog box. This is especially useful when trying to quickly locate a named cell or a cell in a worksheet with hundreds of rows of data.
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Utility: 3
Alt > V > Z – Open Zoom dialog box for changing magnification.
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Utility: 3
Alt + Page Up / Page Down – Move one screen to the left/right in a worksheet.

Selection

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Utility: 5
Shift + Up / Down / Left / Right – Extend cell selection upward/downward/left/right by one cell.
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Utility: 5
Ctrl + Shift + Up / Down – Extend selection range to the top/last cell of a contiguous data region in the same column as the active cell.
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Utility: 4
Ctrl + Shift + Left / Right – Extend selection range to the left/right-most cell of a contiguous data region on the same row as the active cell.
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Utility: 5
Shift / Ctrl + Spacebar – Select the entire row/column.
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Utility: 4
Ctrl + A – If the worksheet contains data, this selects the current, contiguous data region. Pressing Ctrl + A again selects the entire worksheet. This is most useful when you want to copy a group of cells or an entire worksheet.
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Utility: 2
Ctrl + Shift + End / Home – Extend selection range to the last (i.e. bottom/right) / first (i.e. top/left) cell in the worksheet.
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Utility: 1
Ctrl + Backspace – Deselect selection range to original (i.e. top/left) cell. This can be accomplished just as easily without shortcuts using the arrow keys.

Manipulation

Utility: 5
F2 – Places the active cell in edit mode and highlights precedent cells. Positions the insertion point at the end of the cell contents.
Utility: 5
F4 – Repeat the last command or action when NOT in edit mode, if possible. When in edit mode, F4 anchors a cell reference at an absolute column/row, row, or column, depending on how many times F4 is pressed.
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Utility: 5
Ctrl + D – Fill Down to copy contents and format of the top-most cell in the selected range to cells below.
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Utility: 5
Ctrl + R – Fill Right to copy contents and format of the left-most cell in the selected range to cells to the right.
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Utility: 5
Alt > O > E – Open the Format Cells dialog box (same as Ctrl + 1). Use the arrow keys to cycle through the tabs and the Tab key to cycle through elements on the active tab.
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Utility: 5
Alt > I > R – Insert a single row above the active cell.
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Utility: 5
Alt > I > C – Insert a single column to the left of the active cell.
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Utility: 5
Alt > E > S > T / F / V > Enter – Paste cell format/formula/value only (only after copying or cutting).
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Utility: 5
Alt > E > D – Deleted selected cells. Used most often after you have selected the rows/columns you wish to delete. If you have not selected entire rows/columns, the Delete Cells dialog box will prompt you for clarification.
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Utility: 5
Alt > O > C > W – Set column width as specified.
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Utility: 5
Alt > O > R > E – Set row height as specified.
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Utility: 4
Alt + = – Automatically sum values in the contiguous data region above the active cell. Hit Enter to enter the equation and calculate the cell.
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Utility: 4
Alt > T > O – Open the Options dialog box. Use arrow keys to navigate the tabs, and the Tab key to cycle through the options on the active tab. On the View tab, you will most often want to turn off gridlines (press Alt + G right away).
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Utility: 4
F2 + F9 – Inspect the value of the cell in edit mode, regardless of whether the cell contains a value or a formula. Pressing Enter replaces any formula with the value calculated by the formula, and pressing Esc exits edit mode for the active cell.
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Utility: 4
Shift + F2 – Insert or edit a cell comment.
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Utility: 3
Alt > E > A > M – Remove comment(s) from selected cell(s).
Utility: 4
F9 – Calculate all worksheets in all open workbooks. Useful when using Tables that are not set to recalculate automatically.
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Utility: 1
Shift + F9 – Calculate the active worksheet. Useful when using Tables that are not set to recalculate automatically.
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Utility: 3
Alt > D > G > G – Group selected rows or columns. This sequence is often followed by hiding the grouped rows/columns, using the shortcut below.
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Utility: 3
Alt > D > G > H – Hide grouped rows/columns.
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Utility: 3
Alt > D > G > U – Ungroup selected rows/columns.
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Utility: 3
Ctrl + F3 – Open Define Name dialog box to specify a name (e.g. "tax_rate") for the active cell (same as Alt > I > N > D). Naming cells that are used in the calculation of many other cells is a very good idea and makes checking your work easier.
Utility: 3
F3 – Paste a defined name into a formula when in edit mode.
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Utility: 3
Ctrl + Shift + Minus (Ctrl + Underscore) – Remove all borders from active cell.
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Utility: 2
Shift + F11 – Insert a new worksheet (same as Alt > I > W).
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Utility: 2
Alt > D > T – Create a Table. Tables are a great way to show the sensitivity of an output to various inputs (e.g. enterprise value sensitivity to discount and terminal growth rates in a DCF analysis).
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Utility: 2
Alt > W > F – Freeze panes. Press this sequence again to unfreeze panes. Use for data entry on large spreadsheets.
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Utility: 2
Alt > D > L – Opens the Data Validation dialog box to set restrictions on the values a user may enter into the active cell (e.g. numbers greater than 0, dates within specified years, etc.). Setting validation rules for critical or unintuitive spreadsheet inputs prevents invalid inputs from breaking your model.
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Utility: 1
Ctrl + Semicolon – Insert the current date into the active cell.
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Utility: 1
Ctrl + Shift + Semicolon (Ctrl + Colon) – Insert the current time into the active cell.