How Can Ctrl+[ and Ctrl+G Save Me Time?
Let’s say you have a simple formula in B5. The formula is C200*5. You forget what’s in C200, what the formula is there, but you need to know.
What’s a fast way to get to C200 and then back to B5?
Method 1 (very slow):
Scroll to C200 and then scroll back. Fugedaboutit. Too damned slow.
Method 2 (faster, but not the fastest):
Hit Ctrl+G (or F5), and then type C200 (and then Enter) to go to C200. Kind of slow.
But the good news is that Ctrl+G is arguably the fastest way to get back. Why? Because once you hit Ctrl+G again, it automatically assumes you want to go back to the last cell you were in. And in this case, Excel guessed right, thus saving you the hassle of typing in your destination again.
Below is the pop-up I get after I go from B5 to C200 using Ctrl+G. You can see that B5 (the last cell I was in) is already populated as the destination. (Note: the terminology in the window is confusing, since the destination I’m going to is actually in the Reference box, not the Go To box).
So going back using Ctrl+G is fast. I just hit Ctrl+G and then Enter (no need to specify a destination).
But is there a faster way to get back than entering C200?
If you’re in B5, Ctrl+[ will take you to C200 (the precedent, or the referenced cell). You don’t need to enter a destination. Therefore, it’s one step instead of two.
Ctrl+[ works even if the precedent is in another worksheet. And Ctrl+G will still take you back where you came from. This can save you a ton of time compared to manually moving back and forth between workbooks. If this sounds too good to be true, just try it. The first time I saw someone doing this in the office I couldn’t believe it. I ran back to my desk. It saved me a lot of time that very day.
So you can toggle back and forth between your formula cell and your precedent cell using Ctrl+[ and Ctrl+G. If you’re inspecting a bunch of formulas, you can just keep doing this for each formula. Just keep moving to another formula cell and do the toggle.
Maybe your precedent depends on a bunch of math in other cells. And you change an assumption, which in turn changes the result in your precedent cell (whether it’s C200 or some cell in another worksheet). If you’re doing stuff like this all day long and want to check on your precedents, this is a great way to do it.
(Note: if you start moving around between cells before you hit Ctrl+G to go back, then Ctrl+G may not be as fast. Why? Because in some cases the default return cell will change to one of the new cells you moved around into, so you’ll have to manually enter the cell you want to return to, or click on it in the list of recently visited cells. You can always double check what’s in the Reference box before you hit Enter).
Unfortunately, not all formulas have only one precedent.
For formulas with more than one precedent, Ctrl+[ still works — it’s just a little more complicated.
If the formula you’re working with references more than one cell, then Ctrl+[ will take you to the first one. Actually, all of the referenced cells will be selected, but you’re only guaranteed to see the first one on your screen, since that’s where your screen view will be taken (and the others may be too far away to see). Ctrl+[ will select all of the referenced cells — assuming they’re on the current worksheet. It will leave out any cells on other worksheets – unless the first cell in the formula is in another worksheet. In that case, it will go to the other worksheet and select only to the first cell on that worksheet (not any more than one cell). The best thing is to play around with this to get the hang of it.
Now, if you use Ctr+[ and it selects multiple precedents on your current worksheet, you can actually rotate among them with the Tab (or Enter) key. They will all stay selected, but you can move among them with Tab. Then, when you’re done, hit Ctrl+G and it will take you back to your original formula cell. Rotating among the cells with the Tab key doesn’t mess up the Ctrl+G sequence of cells (it seems to ignore the Tabbing).
I hope the Ctrl+[ / Ctrl+G toggle saves you some time. Maybe you have something better? If so, share it.