What and where is Excel’s Quick Access Toolbar?
If you have certain formats that you use a lot but for which there’s no easy shortcut, you can put them on your QAT or Quick Access Toolbar. This is the skinny toolbar that by default sits above the Ribbon – but that I move to below the Ribbon for easier access – see below:
You’ll notice that, while I use Bold, Italics and Underline a lot, I don’t have them on the QAT. Why? Because I already have Ctrl-2/3/4 or B/I/U. If I change cell colors and font colors a lot, I can put those on the QAT (as I’ve done above). This way they’re within easy reach no matter which Ribbon tab I’m on.
But another benefit of putting them on the QAT is that you give yourself the option of basically creating your own new customized keyboard shortcuts. If you hit the Alt key you’ll see the Ribbon and the QAT light up with keyboard shortcuts:
How do I create my own custom Excel shortcuts using the Quick Access Toolbar?
The ones on the left of the Quick Access Toolbar are fairly easy to type in with your left hand – e.g., Alt-1 for Commas. I like to have my numbers formatted with commas but no decimals, and the fastest way I’ve found is to place the Comma and Decrease Decimal icons in the number 1 and number 2 positions so I can just type Alt-1-2-2 to (1) add the Comma formatting (which also puts in two decimals) by typing “1” and then (2) remove the two decimals by typing “2” twice.
Unlike with the Ctrl shortcuts, Alt shortcuts don’t require you to keep the key depressed (though you can if you want). For example, to use Comma formatting you can hit Alt-1 (press Alt and then, while keeping it down, type “1” – the same way you would type Ctrl-1 for the Format Cells dialog box) – or you can let go of Alt before you type “1” (using the QAT in the illustration above). In my number formatting example (comma and no decimals) I can go faster by keeping the Alt key depressed, as this saves me from re-typing Alt for each shortcut – meaning I type Alt-1-2-2 instead of Alt-1, Alt-2, Alt-2.
Depending on the keyboard you might be able to type Alt-1 through Alt-6 without lifting your left hand, meaning the 1 though 6 positions on the QAT are prime real estate for creating your own shortcuts. I recommend that you reserve these slots for tasks you will use frequently and that have no better shortcut alternatives.
If you have a short-term project with intensive usage of a certain Excel task – say, wrapping text or merging and centering – you may want to place the shortcut for this command on the far left on a temporary basis. In effect, you’ll have a temporary custom shortcut. When the project is done, you can move it back to its “normal” position. Don’t be afraid to modify the Quick Access Toolbar as needed to save you time. It’s fast and easy.