How Many Types Of Excel Shortcuts Are There?
Excel shortcuts come in eight basic flavors (there are more but these are the main ones):
- Ctrl shortcuts (which use the Ctrl key)
- Shift shortcuts (which use the Shift key)
- Ctrl+Shift shortcuts (which use the Ctrl and Shift keys together)
- Alt shortcuts (which use the Alt key)
- F-key shortcuts (which use the F-keys)
- QAT shortcuts (which use the Quick Access Toolbar)
- Mouse shortcuts (which use the right-click menu)
- Hybrid shortcuts (which use both the mouse (typically right-clicking) and the keyboard)
Below, I’ll go through each type of shortcut briefly, with a few examples of each.
But first, here is an animation of Alt shortcuts to whet your appetite:
Excel Shortcuts: Ctrl
Many of the most popular Excel shortcuts involve typing Ctrl and a letter or number (or an arrow or an F-key). For example, Ctrl+C for Copy, Ctrl+V for Paste and Ctrl+S for Save. For purposes of speed, I highly recommend that you use any Ctrl shortcuts that can be accomplished by the left hand (such as those just mentioned). Use Ctrl shortcuts that involve the right hand only when doing so is faster than the alternatives (for example, Ctrl+End to jump to the farthest used cell).
Excel Shortcuts: Shift
While not as common as Ctrl shortcuts, there are some useful Shift shortcuts. For example, Shift+F11 opens a new worksheet and Shift+→ selects an expanding range of cells as you keep typing → or just hold → down. You can use this with the other arrow keys as well. Just as Ctrl helps you “jump” on the worksheet, Shift enables you to select cells.
Excel Shortcuts: Ctrl+Shift
There are also shortcuts that combine Ctrl and Shift. The most popular of this group are the navigation shortcuts. For example, Ctrl+Shift+End selects everything from where you are to the farthest used cell. Ctrl+Shift+→ selects everything from where you are to the next blank cell (or if you’re already in or in front of a blank cell, it will select everything from where you are to the next non-blank cell).
Excel Shortcuts: Alt
If you are determined to leave your mouse behind and use use only your keyboard, then Alt shortcuts are your best friend. These shortcuts involve involve hitting the Alt key, followed by a series of letters, to navigate the Ribbon without the mouse. Basically, by hitting Alt, you activate a comprehensive keyboard-driven shortcut system that allows you to drill down to every action on the ribbon (and Quick Access Toolbar (or QAT)). This means everything on the Ribbon (and QAT) has a keyboard shortcut (though there’s no guarantee that these shortcuts represent the fastest choice for each task).
Below is what appears when you hit Alt (and above is a short animation). Each pop-up letter (or “key tip”) represents a keyboard shortcut. Here, you would type “A” (for example) to go to the Data tab.
Once you type “A” for Data, you’re taken to the Data tab where you now see the next level and corresponding set of letter shortcuts:
Above, “T” is for filter, so the complete sequence for activating the Filter would be Alt-A-T (see the animation above). In effect, typing Alt-A-T first lights up the key tips (Alt), then takes you to the Data tab (A), then selects Filter once you’re on that tab (T). So if you ever end up in a mouse-less emergency, this is the way to go. To get out of the key tips just type Alt or ESC until they disappear.
Excel Shortcuts: Quick Access Toolbar
The Quick Access Toolbar (below) is highly customizable and lends itself to two types of shortcuts.
First, you can just simply click on an icon that’s on the QAT. This is often faster than clicking on the icon on the Ribbon.
Second, you can use the QAT for Alt shortcuts. As mentioned above, the QAT menu is activated by hitting the Alt key (it is activated in the picture below), and the shortcuts for the QAT are typically numbers (vs. letters for Ribbon shortcuts). Unlike the Ribbon Alt shortcuts, you have a lot of flexibility for customizing the QAT shortcuts. You can determine exactly which icons are where on the QAT. Thus for your high frequency tasks where you have no fast shortcut available, it makes sense to put those on the far left of the QAT. Then the shortcut will be, for example, Alt-1 (or Alt-2, or Alt-3, etc.), which is easy for the left hand to execute by itself quickly.
Excel Shortcuts: Mouse / Right-Click
Right-clicking on the mouse brings up a context menu (see below for an example). Clicking on a menu option there is often faster than clicking on the Ribbon. For example, right clicking and clicking on Clear Contents is faster than clicking on the Ribbon, in part because your mouse doesn’t have to travel the distance to the Ribbon and back (but also because you don’t have to worry about being on the right tab, as you do with Ribbon items).
Excel Shortcuts: Hybrid
Hybrid shortcuts are shortcuts that incorporate mouse and keyboard action into one shortcut. For some reason, although some hybrid shortcuts are blazing fast, most people aren’t even aware of them.
The best example of a hybrid shortcut is right clicking the mouse, then typing the shortcut key with your left hand. The shortcut key is typically the underlined letter in the menu choice (in some cases there’s no word on the menu, only an icon, and in this case you can just hover over the icon to reveal the shortcut key). Beginning an action with the mouse doesn’t require you to finish it that way.
Two of my favorite hybrid shortcuts are right-clicking and then typing “D” for Delete or “F” for Format (I would summarize these as RC-D and RC-F (“RC” stands for right-click)). Above you will see that “D” is the shortcut key for the Delete option, and “F” is the shortcut key for Format.
Excel Shortcuts: F-key
F-key shortcuts are very straightforward. For example, F1 is the shortcut for Help and F2 is the shortcut to edit cell content. Not much more to say about these.
Many tasks in Excel have multiple shortcuts. For example, Copy has the following shortcuts: Ctrl-C, Alt-H-C and RC-C to name a few. Becoming familiar with the shortcut options that Excel offers is essential to becoming an Excel speed demon. As always, I welcome your thoughts on the subject.