Range Selection Tip and Trick
You know how when you press Enter you usually select the cell below? You can override that without changing a single setting.
When you select a range Excel can behave differently when you press the Enter key. Not many users know this trick.
Select the range B2:G2 in a blank sheet and press Enter. The cell selected will be the one on the right or back at the start of the range depending which cell was active when the range was selected.
Pressing Enter cycles through all the cells in the range.
This works for two dimensional ranges as well – in that case the cell below is selected until the bottom of the range is reached then the top of the next column within the range is selected.
This is handy for entering data into input ranges.
Let’s say range A2:D2 has basic links referencing the cell above so cell A2 has =A1 in it.
What if you wanted to change all those relative references to fixed references?
Select the range A2:D2 and then press these three keys in sequence
F2 F4 Enter
Repeat three times – job done!
F2 is the Edit command.
F4 converts a relative reference into a fixed reference.
Enter accepts the change.
You can often achieve very fast changes with keyboard techniques like this.
For example if a cell contains an email address or a web address but it isn’t recognised as a link, simply select the cell and press F2 then press Enter to convert it into a link.
If there is a column of them, just keeping pressing F2 and Enter to convert them all. You can become quite fast.
Marking cells Good-Bad-Neutral
Sometimes when you are reviewing a file against a printed report, you may need to identify when cell values are correct, wrong or close.
Consider using the built-in Styles Good/Bad/Neutral on the Home ribbon tab – see below.
These can be quicker than using the usual fill colour icon.
Remember they may not be useful for colour blind readers if you are sharing with other people.
Don’t forget once applied if you want to apply the same format to another cell press the F4 function key.
Once formatted you can sort or filter by colour – see right click options below.
Adding Values to Values
Let’s say you have an input cell that someone enters multiple values into eg
You may have many such cells.
Now let’s say you want to add 20 to all these cells but keep the original values that have been entered in those cells.
Paste Special to the rescue.
Enter 20 in a blank cell and then copy the cell
Select the cells you want to amend – you can hold the Ctrl key down to select multiple cells with the mouse
Open the Paste Special dialog
Click the options Values and Add – as per image below – then click OK – done!
The resulting formula will be something like
Find and Replace Tips, Tricks and Traps
The keyboard short for Find is Ctrl + f.
For Find & Replace it is Ctrl + h.
Always, I mean
ALWAYS, select the range you are working with before you run Find and Replace.
If you have a single cell selected it will affect the whole sheet – maybe not what you want.
Leave the Dialog Open
In the old days we used to close the Find dialog. Now you can leave it open if you need to change things in multiple files or sheets. You can navigate around with the dialog left open.
When using Find if you want to select all the cells it has found, click in the bottom section of the Find dialog where the cells are listed and press Ctrl + a this will select all the cells at once.
Be aware that sometimes numbers won’t be found due to formatting. eg if you search for 1000 but you have used the comma format eg 1,000 then the number might not be found.
You might need to do two Finds, with and without commas.
Formulas vs Values
Click on the Options button to see these options.
The default Look in: setting for Find (unfortunately) is Formulas. See image below.
This means if a formula returns what you are looking for it won’t be found. You need to switch this Look in: setting to Values.
I found a good shortcut today to increase the decimal places.
Alt H 0
For example you might use these two shortcuts one after the other to format a range as a percentage with one decimal place.
Ctrl + Shift + %
Alt H 0
Making Subtotals Bold
When you use the SUBTOTAL feature in the Data ribbon tab it automatically inserts subtotals in your list – see
blog post on it here.
One problem with this is that is only makes the cell with the word Total bold – it doesn’t make the whole row bold.
If you want the whole row to be bold it isn’t hard to fix.
Select the whole range involved.
Use the grouping button 2 top left corner. See image below.
Then hold the Alt key down and press the ; (semicolon key) – this selects just the visible cells.
Then press Ctrl + b to bold it.
Click another cell to reset the range and you are done.
Printing Separate Print Areas
If you need to print a number of separate print areas from the one worksheet in one step there is an option that allows you to create a print area that includes additional ranges.
Create your first print area as per normal.
Select another print range and click the Page Layout ribbon and use the Print Area drop down and choose Add to Print Area. Keep adding ranges as you require.
You can also use the Ctrl key and mouse to select multiple separate ranges and then use Set Print Area.
The above technique allows you to add to that Print Area if you miss a range.
The only problem with this option is that each separate range is printed on a separate page(s).
Close All Icon
If you have a lot of files open and you want to close them all and still leave Excel open you can add this icon to the Quick Access toolbar.
this post if you are not sure about using the Quick Access Toolbar.
Pasting a Filtered List in a Formatted Table
I have been recently working with some very large (500,000+ rows) tables. As part of the process I had to filter one Formatted Table, copy it and then paste it in another Formatted Table. Excel would sit there processing for a long time – but I found a technique to speed up the process.
After you copy the filtered list, simply paste it in a blank sheet. This is virtually instantaneous. Then copy that interim list and paste in the other Formatted Table – again almost instantaneous. Two quick pastes is a lot quicker than paste and wait.
In case you didn’t know, when you copy a filtered list, you only copy the visible cells – the filtered ones. The hidden cells are omitted from the copy.
So if you are experiencing delays in the pasting of a filtered list, just use an interim paste and then another copy to speed up your copy and paste.
For more information on Formatted Tables, check out the links below.
Format As Table in Excel Part 1
Excel Format as Table Part 2 [VIDEO]
Inserting Data into Formatted Tables
I was recently working with a large Formatted Table in excess of 100,000 rows with Power Query.
I was copying in new data to a temporary workings table and then manipulating it with Power Query to get the required output. The data was varying lengths. I found that if you pasted data into a Formatted Table that was a lot longer than the Formatted Table it can take a long time for Excel to process the paste (I am talking tens of thousands of extra rows).
To get around this delay I found that if you first expanded the Formatted Table using Insert Rows, the paste was virtually instantaneous. Inserting the extra rows was also very quick.
So if your Table has sufficient rows the paste is quick, if Excel needs to expand the table to fit the new data, it can be slow for large data sets. Make sure you insert sufficient blank rows to speed up the paste.
You can learn more about Formatted Tables at the two blog posts below. I have also covered the topic in numerous free webinars.
Format As Table in Excel Part 1
Excel Format as Table Part 2 [VIDEO]
Sheet Protection – No password
When you protect a sheet with a password, you must make a note of the password, otherwise you create problems for yourself.
Did you know you don’t have to supply a password?
To apply sheet protection, right click the sheet tab and choose Protect Sheet.
When the Protect Sheet dialog displays just press Enter or click OK.
This protects the sheet with no password.
This stops accidental changes and you can easily unprotect the sheet to make changes.
You can right click the sheet tab to unprotect as well.
Excel 2013 added the Data Model to Excel.
The Relationships option (Data ribbon) is part of that model. It allows you to create relationships between tables so that you can use a PivotTable to report on multiple tables.
See my December 2016
INTHEBLACK article for an example.
The keyboard shortcut to create or edit, a Relationship is easy to remember – it is
Alt a a
Pressed in sequence, not held down.
Pasting Charts in Word and PowerPoint
When you paste Excel charts into Word or PowerPoint you may also be pasting all the underlying data that created the chart.
To get around that problem, you can use the Copy as Picture option.
This option is on a drop down on the Copy button on the Home ribbon – see image below.
You have a few options to choose from on what and how to copy.
This treats the chart as a graphic, which breaks any links to the underlying data. It also makes it much easier to re-size the chart when you paste it in the destination document.
It is not dynamic at all – it is a point in time capture.
Format part of a text string
Many people don’t know that you can format part of a text string in a cell.
This can be useful if you want to highlight, or emphasis, a particular word or phrase in a text string.
You can double click a word in the Formula Bar or while editing in a cell and a small menu pops up – see image below.
The options are reasonably limited, but you can use Bold or Italic, change the font; the font size and font colour – see examples below.
Show or Hide Cell Comments
Cell comments (they are like a sticky notes for cells) are great for instructions and documentation.
To show all the comments press, in sequence, not held down
Alt r a
This is a toggle, so you can use the same sequence to hide all the comments.
Shortcut to Re-Apply Sort
To re-apply the current sort – select a cell inside the table and press in sequence
Alt a s s Enter
Could be called the donkey shortcut.
Reapply a Filter
Let’s say you have applied a filter to a list.
The list is dynamic and the values have been updated by a refresh – the filter is out of date.
You don’t have to go into the filter drop down to re-apply the filter.
You can use a keyboard shortcut whilst in any cell in the table.
Ctrl + Alt + L
There are two reasons your Excel file won’t calculate.
The first, and easiest to fix, is that Calculation is turned off – see a
previous tip on that issue.
The other reason is that there is a Circular Reference in the file. Circular References can stop calculation.
You can confirm if there is a Circular Reference in a file by looking at the bottom left-hand corner of the screen – see image below.
A Circular Reference means that a cell is referring to itself in a calculation. A simple example is shown in the image above, where cell A1 has a formula =A1.
Excel cannot resolve this calculation, so zero is displayed.
In the Formulas tab, on the right-hand side, the Error Checking icon drop down will help you identify the Circular References in the file.
Turn on Calculation
The shortcut to turn on automatic calculation – pressed in sequence – is
Alt m x a
To turn it off
Alt m x m
Learning Excel’s Function Arguments
When you start to use a function it can take some time to learn the arguments required and understand what Excel expects for each argument. Eg should it be a cell or a range or either?
When you have the start of a function in the formula bar, you can either press Ctrl + a or click the fx symbol on the left of the formula bar – see image below.
In the image above, the argument in square brackets [range_lookup] is optional. Square brackets around an argument mean it is optional.
This will display a dialog with a listing of the arguments required by a function. The bold names are required, the non-bold names are optional.
This listing provides a lot more detail on what Excel is expecting for each function argument. This helps you learn more about how to create and use the function.