Keyboard Or Mouse?
What’s faster? The mouse or the keyboard? That is the question when it comes to speed and Excel shortcuts.
Like most people, I employ both types — I am a “hybrid” user.
In theory, a keyboard-only approach is fastest. However, for most people (including me), a keyboard-only approach is a bridge too far, requiring too much memorization. Moreover, the mouse is comfortable and, in many cases, actually faster than the keyboard. So I typically use keyboard shortcuts involving only those keys reachable by the left hand (without looking at the keyboard). I keep the right hand on the mouse unless putting it on the keyboard will clearly save me a lot of time (e.g., navigating and selecting large ranges).
Hybrid Excel Shortcuts
One great example of a fast hybrid shortcut is right clicking the mouse, then typing the shortcut key with your left hand. Beginning an action with the mouse doesn’t require you to finish it that way.
Below are two common versions of the “context menu” that you get after right clicking (or pressing the Menu key) to get commonly needed Excel shortcuts. The one on the left appears when you have nothing in your clipboard, and the one on the right appears if you do (there are some exceptions that we don’t have space to go into here). After right clicking, you can make your selection either with the mouse by clicking, or with the keyboard by typing the underlined letter. If the letter is within easy reach of the left hand (without looking down at the keyboard), I’ve found it faster just to type the letter. (If your right hand is on the keyboard (e.g., you were just navigating and selecting a large range), you can use the Menu key to open up the menu, and then you have all of the menu options within reach of your fingers because now both hands are on the keyboard).
Since I’m typically on the mouse, my favorite Excel shortcuts in the “normal” context menu are restricted to these left-handed ones that I use frequently:
- “D” for Delete
- “F” for Format Cells…
Typing “E” for Filter is tempting, but it’s not as good as it looks since it takes you to a sub-menu that requires you to actually apply a filter (not just activate the filter, which is what I prefer).
For the second context menu above (that you get after you’ve copied something into the clipboard), there are some additional options I like (just type these letters after you right click):
- “V” for pasting Values (the 123 icon)
- “R” for Formatting (the icon with the % and paint brush)
- “S” for opening the Paste Special sub-menu
- “S-A” for pasting Values and Number Formatting (from within the sub-menu)
- “S-S” for opening the Paste Special sub-menu and then (from within the sub-menu) the Paste Special pop-up menu (which has the “Operation” section that allows you to add, subtract, multiply and divide what you’ve copied against what you’re pasting into)
(Note: in the second context menu, typing “F” for Format Cells won’t work since it will activate the Formula icon (fx) instead of the Formatting icon).
All of the other Excel shortcuts accessible from the context menu are either (a) easier for me to do with the mouse or (b) things I don’t do enough to bother memorizing.
You can increase your speed noticeably by incorporating Excel keyboard shortcuts. But are you willing to memorize enough so that you can abandon the mouse? I’m not. I prefer a hybrid approach of using the left hand for keyboard shortcuts and keeping the right hand on the mouse (except in certain cases, as mentioned in the beginning). But I am open to change…
What say you?