Use Excel Shortcut Keys to Quickly Save Your Work

Save early, save often!

You've put a lot of work into your Excel spreadsheet, don't let it slip away because you forgot to save it. Use these tips to keep your work safe and saved for the next time you need that important file. When you want to share your work, save the workbook in PDF format.

Instructions in this article apply to Excel 2019, 2016, 2013, 2010; Excel for Microsoft 365, and Excel for Mac.

Use Excel Save Shortcut Keys

There are three ways to save a file in Excel:

  • Select File > Save As. In Excel 2019, select File > Save a Copy.
  • Select Save on the Quick Access Toolbar.
  • Use the Ctrl+S shortcut key.

If you work on a Mac, use the Command key instead of the Control key.

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If the file has been saved before, the pointer changes to an hourglass icon while the save takes place. If the workbook is being saved for the first time, the Save As dialog box opens.

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. Enter a name for the file and choose the location where it will be saved.

File names can contain up to 255 characters including spaces.

Save Frequently

Using Ctrl+S is an easy way to save data. Use this shortcut frequently, at least every five minutes, to avoid losing data.

Pin Save Locations

If you open certain files or folders frequently in Excel, pin them to your list of recently opened files. This keeps the location readily accessible at the top of the Recent list. 

There is no limit to the number of locations that can be pinned. To pin a save location:

  1. To pin a folder, select File > Save As.

    Save As menu in Excel.
  2. Select Recent and, on the right side of the window, hover over the workbook or folder you want to pin. A small horizontal image of a push pin appears for that location.

    showing how to pin a file to the Save window in Excel
  3. Select the pin for that location. The folder is moved to the Pinned list and the horizontal push pin changes to a vertical push pin.

    a pinned folder in Excel
  4. To unpin a location, select the vertical push pin to change it back to a horizontal pin and remove it from the Pinned list.

Save Excel Worksheets as PDF Files

When you want a copy of a worksheet or an entire workbook that nobody can edit and everyone can view, convert or save your Excel 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 open the file with a free PDF reader program such as Adobe Acrobat Reader.

Saving the Active Worksheet in PDF Format

When saving a file in PDF format, by default only the current, or active worksheet (the worksheet on screen), is saved.

To save an Excel worksheet in PDF format:

  1. Select File.

    Selecting File.
  2. Select Save As to open the Save As window.

    Selecting Save As.
  3. Choose the location where you want to save the file.

    Selecting a location to save file.
  4. Enter a name for the file.

    Naming the file.
  5. Select the Save as type down arrow.

    Selecting the Save as type dropdown.
  6. Scroll through the list to find and select PDF (*.pdf).

    Excel showing how to save a file as a PDF
  7. Select Save to save the file in PDF format and close the window.

    Selecting Save.

Save an Entire Workbook in PDF Format

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:

  1. Select File > Save As.

    Selecting Save As.
  2. Select Browse to open the Save As dialog box.

    Selecting a location to save file.
  3. Select Save as type to open a drop-down list and choose PDF. The Options button appears in the Save As dialog box.

    Excel showing how to save a file as a PDF
  4. Select Options to open the Options dialog box.

    Selecting Options.
  5. Select Entire Workbook in the Publish what section.

    Excel showing how to save an entire workbook as PDF
  6. Select OK to return to the Save As dialog box.

    Selecting OK.
  7. Select Save to save the workbook in PDF format and close the dialog box.

AutoSave to OneDrive

If you use Microsoft 365, Excel automatically saves your work when you choose to save files to your OneDrive cloud storage account. When your files are saved to OneDrive, documents are automatically saved every few seconds, eliminating the need for you to continuously select Save or use shortcut keys.

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

If you have Microsoft 365 and save your files to OneDrive, enable AutoSave by selecting 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, change it to Off.

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