Tips To Become An Excel Ninja

To efficiently operate a computer, using only the keyboard.

This was a goal I pursued for the first few years in my early 20s, during my then-search for high levels of personal efficiency. During this earlier phase of my life, I often evaluated software based on whether they had hotkeys (i.e. keyboard shortcuts) available. Along the way, I learned some tricks for navigating the programs I used most often, including a local version of Microsoft Excel.

This post is to share some of the hotkeys I found helpful. As more come to mind, I will include them here :) feel free to bookmark this page if you find it helpful!


The 'Navigate Excel, swift as a Ninja' Shortcuts

If one is going to use Excel without the help of a mouse, then one must be able to navigate an Excel worksheet and workbook proficiently using shortcuts.

  • Ctrl + arrow keys: Go to first/last cell in a row, column. 
  • Ctrl + Home: Select the first non-blank cell.
  • Ctrl + End: Go to the last non-blank cell.
  • Ctrl + PgUp: Go to the previous sheet.
  • Ctrl + PgDn: Go to the next sheet.
  • F5: Go To dialog. Navigates anywhere in the sheet.  
  • Shift + Space: Select the row.
  • Ctrl + Space: Select the column.
  • Shift + Ctrl + Space: Select the table.
  • Ctrl + (+): Insert cell or cell range (to add a range, precede by Shift + Space or Ctrl + Space).
  • Ctrl + (-): Delete cell or cell range (to add a range, precede by Shift + Space or Ctrl + Space).
  • Ctrl + A: Select a region (also, you can use Ctrl + A again to select all).
  • Alt + Enter (while editing a cell): Enter a new line (row) within a cell.
  • Ctrl + F4: Close an Excel workbook, but not the application.
  • Ctrl + 0: Hide the column containing the selected cell.
  • Ctrl + 9: Hide the row containing the selected cell.

The 'Operate Excel like a Boss' Shortcuts

The below shortcuts should help any information worker get through their most common daily Excel tasks with increased productivity.

  • Ctrl + S: Save file. Cannot emphasize enough the importance of habitually doing this all the time.
  • F12: Save as.
  • F2: Edit a cell; allows easy editing cell contents, placing your cursor at the end of the cell's value and toggling between Enter &  Edit mode.
  • F4: Change the type of cell reference from relative to absolute or semi-absolute. This is used while editing formulas.
  • F4: Repeat last action (e.g. adding rows, adjusting formats).
  • Ctrl + 1: Open format dialog (used to set borders, fills, cell-formats, alignment etc.)
  • Alt + W, F, F: (Un)freeze panes. This locks down parts of the sheet so they are always visible.
  • Alt + A, T: Apply/Remove filter.
  • Alt + Down arrow: Show the in-cell drop down menu with previously entered values.
  • Shift + F2: Add/Edit cell comment.
  • Alt + H, V, V: Paste values alone (i.e. removing all formulas, formatting etc.).
  • Ctrl + K: Insert hyperlink.
  • Alt + (=) - Sum range of values.
  • F9: Re-calculate all worksheets. Also useful when debugging formulas to see results from selected portions of a formula. 
  • F11: Create (pivot) chart.
  • Alt + N, V, T: Insert pivot table.
  • Ctrl + Shift + 1: Format selection as number with 2 decimal points.
  • Ctrl + 5: Strike through text.
  • Ctrl + F2: Open the print preview.


I hope you find the list I put together useful; I encourage you to keep it bookmarked for future reference :)

For this post, I've tried to keep it contained to those shortcuts which will benefit the majority of people in their day-to-day use of Excel. That said, there are a ton of other shortcuts that can be used for specific circumstances within Excel or its Visual Basic editor. For a a really solid list of shortcuts, you can visit this tips & shortcuts post from the ASAP Utilities for Excel site.

Please reach out if you feel there are other shortcuts that you use every day which should be included in this list!