Whether you’re crunching sales figures, importing an email list, or analyzing data for a monthly report, chances are you need to use Microsoft Excel for some of your day-to-day work. While most of us aren’t die-hard spreadsheet junkies, learning some time-saving shortcuts can help you get things done faster and more efficiently in Excel.
Here are nine of our favorite Microsoft Excel hacks that make quick work of resizing columns, changing number formatting and even embedding a spreadsheet into a Word document.
If you’re looking for more time-saving hacks, also check out our articles covering other Microsoft Office programs:
Excel Hack #1 – Select Everything with a Single Click
Ever need to quickly select your entire spreadsheet? You can do it with a single click, just by clicking the arrow in the upper left corner of your spreadsheet.
Excel Hack #2 – Resize Columns to Fit With 2 Clicks
The standard column sizes in Excel don’t leave a lot of room for text, so you’ll often see columns that look like this:
It’s easy to resize each column individually by clicking and dragging with the mouse, but there’s a faster way. Just hover your cursor to the right of the column you want to resize and double-click.
To resize multiple columns, simply select the columns or rows, then double-click next to any of the selected columns to expand the columns all at once.
Excel Hack #3 – Start a New Line In a Selected Cell
Sometimes you’d like to add a line break within a cell, even if the cell is wide enough to fit all the words. Most users quickly find out that pressing the Enter key won’t let you start text on the next line, like it does in Microsoft Word. Pressing Enter just takes you to the next cell in the spreadsheet.
To add a new line to a cell, press Alt + Enter while you are typing inside the cell. This will move the cursor down so you can type on the next line. Note that this is different than Excel’s Wrap Text function, which will only put information on the second line if the column is too small. The Alt + Enter command forces a line break, regardless of the column width.
Excel Hack #4 – Use Shortcuts to Select Rows or Columns
While selecting entire columns and rows with the mouse is pretty easy by simply clicking to the left of a row or the top of a column, using keyboard shortcuts can save you time and scrolling, especially on very large spreadsheets. To select either a row or column, click anywhere in the row or column you want to select.
To select an entire row, press Shift + Spacebar.
To select an entire column, press Ctrl + Spacebar.
Excel Hack #5 – Make Number Formatting Easier
If you have a long column of numbers that you’d like to display in currency format or as a percentage, here are a couple shortcut keys you’ll want to memorize to save yourself time:
$ Currency Formatting
Select the column of numbers, then press Ctrl + Shift + $ to display the numbers as currency complete with a dollar sign, commas and 2 decimal places.
% Percent Formatting
Select the column of numbers, then press Ctrl + Shift + % to display the numbers as a percent.
Excel Hack #6 – Inserting/Deleting New Rows or Columns the Easy Way
Need to add a column or row to your spreadsheet quickly? Save yourself time and hassle by using this simple shortcut key combo. First, select a column or row. Then press Ctrl + Shift + ‘plus sign’ (the button with = and +). A new column or row will appear to the left or above the column or row you selected.
You can also insert multiple rows and columns this way. Just select the number of rows or columns you want to insert before using the shortcut. So if you select three columns and use the shortcut, you’ll get three new columns next to your selected columns.
Deleting columns and rows is just as easy as adding them. Simply select the columns or rows you wish to delete. Then press Ctrl + minus-sign. Goodbye unneeded columns!
Excel Hack #7 – Quickly Add the Current Date or Time to Your Spreadsheet
Ever need to add today’s date or the current time into a cell in your spreadsheet? Here’s a fast way to do just that.
Just click into an empty cell and use these shortcut keys:
Current Date – press Ctrl + ; (semicolon)
Current Time – press Ctrl + Shift + : (colon)
Excel Hack #8 – Embed an Excel Spreadsheet in Word
Sometimes it’s useful to show a part of your spreadsheet in a Word document. One of the best ways to do this is by embedding the spreadsheet directly into your document.
Here’s how to do this:
Select the section of the spreadsheet that you want to embed in your Word document.
Next, copy it to the clipboard using the shortcut Ctrl+C. Now either open an existing Word document or create a new one. Place your cursor where you’d like the spreadsheet copy to appear.
Go to the Paste button in the toolbar and click Paste Special.
Choose the option for Microsoft Office Excel Worksheet Object. Then make sure the Paste Link option is selected and click OK.
You should now see a copy of your spreadsheet duplicated in your Word document, like this:
Since we chose Paste Link in the options above, the data in Word is linked to your original spreadsheet in Excel. That means any changes you make in Excel will be immediately reflected in the embedded Word document. A great time saver!
Excel Hack #9 – Click and Drag to Copy Formulas Across Cells
If Excel is great at one thing, it’s math. Crunch numbers even faster by quickly copying your formulas across cells.
Just highlight the cells containing formulas you want to copy and hover your cursor over the bottom right corner. Then just click and drag to copy your formula into more cells.
You can also use the Copy and Paste commands to do the same thing.
Pro Tip: When copying formulas, Excel will automatically change cell references for you. These are known as relative references. If you want your formula to calculate based on the same cells, you need to add a $ before the row number and/or column letter to make it an absolute reference.
For example, in the above multiplication table, you always want your formulas to multiply values in Column A by the ones in Row 2. So when you’re setting up your formula in cell B3, you would write =$A3*B$2
Wish you had a cheat sheet to remember all these time-saving Microsoft Excel hacks? Now you can! Click below for the downloadable version of these handy Excel tricks.
Originally published June, 2015. Updated May 2018