The 20 Best Excel Shortcuts of 2020

Manage Excel tasks like a pro with your mouse and keyboard

You can very quickly accomplish a lot in Microsoft Excel using shortcuts. That includes both keyboard and mouse-based shortcuts. There is almost always more than one way to do the same thing in so you may already have a way that works for, but we think these are the most convenient ways to access the most frequently used (and most useful) Excel shortcuts.

Instructions in this article apply to Excel 2019, 2016, 2013, 2010, 2007; Excel for Office 365, Excel Online and Excel for Mac. Unless otherwise stated, the commands are given as windows keyboard shortcuts but they will work on a Mac if Command is used instead of Ctrl.

Some Important Areas of the Excel Window

You’re probably already very familiar with the most commonly used regions of the Excel Window, like the Formula Bar, Column Headings, Row Headings, and Cells. A lot of shortcuts use some less well-known areas such as the Name Box and the Shortcut Menu. Before getting into specific shortcuts it's important you know what these are and how to access them because the rest of this article will talk about them a lot.

Parts of the Excel window

The Name Box is important for making selections, as well as for assigning names to variables and ranges.

The Shortcut Menu is accessed by clicking on an object with the right mouse button in Windows or Control+Clicking on a Mac. The options available depend on where you click.

Useful Standard Office Shortcuts in Excel

Before we get into the more specialized Excel shortcuts, it’s worth ensuring you’re familiar with a few basic shortcuts that work in all Office applications, as well as many others.

When the instructions show the keystroke combination Ctrl + C, for example, it means to hold down the Ctrl key and then press the letter C, holding both at the same time. The plus sign (+) indicates that you need both of these two keys. You do not press the + key on the keyboard.

Here are the most useful standard keyboard shortcuts:

  • Ctrl+S: Save the current workbook. If it had not yet been saved then the Save As dialogue box will open, otherwise, it will just be saved without any further notification.
  • Ctrl+C: Copy selection to clipboard. If you’ve selected the text in the Formula Bar, then this will only copy the selected text. If you’ve selected a cell without clicking inside the formula bar, or selected a range of cells, then everything about those cells is copped, including relative references in the formulas and any formatting such as boarders, fill and number formats.
  • Ctrl+X: Cut selection to the clipboard. This works just like copy, but the contents of the selection are deleted. Although formats are copied they are not removed.
  • Ctrl+V: Paste everything from the clipboard into the selection. If what has been copied is a different type of data then this might fail and nothing will be copied.
  • Ctrl+Z: Undo the last operation.
  • Ctrl+Y: Redo the previously undone operation
  • Shortcut Menu > Paste Special: When you have copied a cell or range of cells, with all of their formulas, formatting and number formats, often you only want to paste some of this. Paste Special has lots of really useful options such as only pasting the values, the formulas, values or formats. Transpose is also a useful option which effectively rotates a range of cells so that rows become columns and columns become rows. Accessing these options from the Shortcut Menu is usually the most convenient method: Right-click on the selection you want to paste into, or Ctrl+Click if using a Mac. The Shortcut Menu will appear, select Paste Special. Alternatively, you could use Ctrl+Alt+V to directly open the Paste Special dialog on a Windows computer. 
The Paste Special Dialog Box


There are several useful keyboard shortcuts for formatting that are also shared by many Microsoft Office applications as well as being really useful Excel shortcut keys:

  • Ctrl+B: Make selected text bold.
  • Ctrl+I: Make selected text italic
  • Ctrl+U: Make selected text underlined
  • Name Box: Useful for selecting large ranges of cells. If you want to copy, paste or apply formatting to a small range of cells, that are all on the screen, then it’s often easiest to just select one corner of the range with the mouse and drag to the opposite corner to complete the selection. However, for large selections that require scrolling through the spreadsheet, this usually isn’t the best option. Instead, you can simply type the range into the Name Box and hit enter, the entire range will be selected. This approach also allows selections of multiple ranges to be made. For example, typing B5:B25,D1:D20 into the Name Box and hitting Enter produces this selection:
A selection in Excel achieved using the Name Box

Shortcuts for Working with Formulas and Functions

  • F4: Cycles through cell references types. There are 4 reference types: relative, absolute and two types of mixed reference. By default, Excel creates relatives references when you select a cell. For example, if you insert the formula =A1 into cell B1 and then copy it down into the next cell, B2 will reference A2 and so on. To keep the reference fixed so it is always A1 you would need to type =$A$1 into the cell. It’s often very useful to create formulas that fix only the row or the column. To fix the column but keep the row relative you would type =$A1. Similarly, to fix the row but keep the column relative you would type =A$1. Pressing F4 is a really handy way to cycle through these options when selecting cells to reference using the mouse.
  • F5: Displays the Go To dialog box, this is another way to access named ranges but it also shows other values so it isn’t always the most convenient way to insert named ranges. It does contain a button, Special, that opens the Go To Special dialog. This lets you make complex selections such as the current region, all cells containing formulas etc. In certain cases, this can save a lot of time.
  • F9: Calculates the workbook. By default, Excel recalculates every time you change a value, although this can be turned off. Therefore, for most spreadsheets, there is no need to manually tell Excel to calculate. Forcing a workbook to recalculate can be very useful for simulations where random numbers are used.
    Functions like RAND will give a different value each time the workbook calculates. They can be used to construct simulations. To rerun the simulation you don’t necessarily want to change any values. Pressing F9 is a quick way to run a simulation multiple times with the same inputs.
  • F2: Moves the cursor to the end of cell contents. If you select a cell and then just start typing, you will overwrite the contents of the cell. If you want to edit a formula in a cell, you might not want to start from scratch. One way to edit the formula would be to select the cell with the mouse and then click inside the Formula Bar. If you’re using the keyboard you can navigate to the cell you want to select using the arrow keys. Pressing F2 is equivalent to clicking inside the Formula Bar, it puts the cursor at the end of the cell’s contents and now the arrow keys will move you back and forward within the cell’s text. If you’re editing a complex formula it’s still often more convenient to click into the location you want using the mouse. However, for quick changes, F2 combined with the arrow keys can be much faster.

Shortcuts for Working with Named Ranges

Creating named ranges—If you haven’t used Excel’s names before then you’re really missing out on the power of Excel. Names can be linked to individual cells, ranges of cells or fixed values that don’t appear on the spreadsheet. These names can then be used in formulas, just like variables would be used in code or algebra. This makes formulas much easier to create, read and reuse.

The fastest way to assign a name to an individual cell or range of cells is using the Name Box:

  1. Select the cell or range of cells you want to name.

  2. Place your cursor in the Name Box and type whatever name you want to give the selection.

    Creating a name with the name box
  3. Press Enter.

  4. That’s it, the name has been created and is displayed in the Name Box.

The name can now be used in formulas instead of the normal cell reference, it is displayed in the Name Box whenever the range of cells is selected in the worksheet.

  • Ctrl+F3: View the Name Manager. All the names in the workbook can be viewed and edited in the Name Manager. Names can also be assigned fixed values within the Name Manager, which don’t appear anywhere on the spreadsheet.
  • F3: Displays Paste Name dialog box. This is useful when typing a formula. If you can’t remember what you called a Name, simply press F3 and select the name from the list, it will be inserted into the formula at the current cursor location. 

If you want to quickly document all of the names in the workbook, then there is the Paste List command in the Past Name dialog box that will do this in a single click. 

  1. Select the cell where you want the top left-hand corner of the list of names to appear.

  2. Press F3 to display the Paste Name dialog box.

    Paste Name dialog in Excel
  3. Select the Paste List button.

  4. A list of all the names is created in the first column, starting with the cell you selected, with the cells or values they reference in the second column.

    Paste List of Excel names with what they reference
  5. The names are now documented in a way that anybody reading the spreadsheet should be able to understand and reference.

Excel shortcuts can save you a lot of time and when you start using these shortcuts the ones you use most often (which will save you the most time) will quickly become automatic.