Use Excel Shortcut Keys to Quickly Save Your Work

Save early, save often!

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Save your work, don't let it slip away. Jurgita Vaicikeviciene / EyeEm / Getty Images

You've put a lot of work into your Excel spreadsheet, don't let it slip away because you forgot to hit the save button. Use these tips to keep your work safe and saved for the next time you need that important file. Or, if you need to share your work, learn how to easily do so with the PDF save function.

Use Excel Save Shortcut Keys

Screenshot of Excel showing the standard Save As options

In addition to saving workbook files using the Save option located under the File menu or Save icon on the Quick Access toolbar, Excel has the option to save using shortcut keys on the keyboard. The key combination for this shortcut is:

Ctrl + S

If the file has been saved before, the mouse pointer will change to an hourglass icon while the save takes place. Otherwise, if the workbook is being saved for the first time, the Save As dialog box will open.

First Time Save

When a file is saved for the first time, two pieces of information must be specified in the Save As dialog box, including the name of the file and the location of where it will be saved.

File names can contain up to 255 characters including spaces.

Save Frequently

Since using the Ctrl + S shortcut is such an easy way to save data, it is a good idea to save frequently — at least every five minutes – to avoid loss of data in the event of a computer crash.

Pinning Save Locations

Screenshot of Excel showing pinned save locations

Since Excel 2013, it has been possible to pin frequently used saved locations under Save AsDoing so keeps the location readily accessible at the top of the Recent Folders list. There is no limit to the number of locations that can be pinned. To pin a save location:

  1. Click on File > Save As.
  2. In the Save As window, place the mouse pointer on the desired location under Recent folders — at the far right of the screen, a small horizontal image of a push pin appears for that location.
  3. Click on the pin for that location. The image changes to that of a vertical image of a push pin-drop-down indicating that the location is now pinned to the top of the Recent Folders list. 
  4. To unpin a location, click on the vertical push pin image again to change it back to a horizontal pin.

Save Excel Worksheets as PDF Files

Screenshot of Excel showing how to save a file as a PDF

One of the features first introduced in Excel 2010 was the ability to convert or save Excel spreadsheet files in PDF format. A PDF file (Portable Document Format) allows others to view documents without needing the original program, such as Excel, installed on their computer.

Instead, users can open the file with a free PDF reader program such as Adobe Acrobat Reader. A PDF file also allows you to let others view spreadsheet data without giving them the ability to change it.

Saving the Active Worksheet in PDF Format

When saving a file in PDF format, by default only the current, or active worksheet – that is the worksheet on screen – is saved. The steps to saving an Excel worksheet in PDF format using Excel's Save As file type option are:

  1. Click on the File tab of the ribbon to view the available menu options.
  2. Click on the Save As option to open the Save As dialog.
  3. Choose a location for saving the file under the Save In line.
  4. Type a name for the file under the File name line at the bottom.
  5. Click on the down arrow at the end of the Save as type line.
  6. Scroll through the list to find and click on the  PDF (*.pdf) option to make it appear in the Save as type line of the dialog box.
  7. Click Save to save the file in PDF format and close the dialog box.

Save an Entire Workbook in PDF Format

As mentioned, the default Save As option only saves the current worksheet in PDF format. Follow these steps to save your entire workbook as a PDF file:

Screenshot of Excel showing how to save an entire workbook as PDF
  1. Open the Save As dialog box.
  2. Open More Options.
  3. Click on the PDF (*.pdf) option to make the Options button appear in the Save as type line of the dialog box.
  4. Click on the button to open the Options dialog box.
  5. Select Entire Workbook in the Publish what section.
  6. Click OK to return to the Save As dialog box.
  7. Click Save to save your workbooks in PDF format and close the dialog box.

The Options button only becomes visible after the file type is changed to PDF (*.pdf) in the Save As dialog box. It gives you a number of choices regarding what information and data are saved in PDF format.

AutoSave to OneDrive

Screenshot of Excel using the Office 365 AutoSave function

If you're using Microsoft Office 365, Excel will automatically autosave your work whenever you select the company's OneDrive cloud storage as your save location. The new feature saves your document every few seconds, eliminating the need for you to continuously hit the Save button or any respective shortcut keys — that's one less aspect for you to worry about when working.

For the AutoSave function to work, you must be saving your documents to a location in your OneDrive folder. The AutoSave function does not work with any other location on your PC or Mac.

If you have Office 365 and are saving your files to OneDrive, be sure that the AutoSave function is enabled by checking the toggle switch in the top-left corner of the Excel screen. When enabled, the switch will say On. To turn the feature off and save your work manually, merely click on the switch to change it to Off.