Microsoft Excel is a robust, full-featured tool for workbooks and spreadsheets. Whether you use it at work or at home, using features that save you time means that you can move onto your next chore faster.
Here are six convenient ways to fly through your workbooks, spreadsheets, and related tasks quickly.
1. Time-Saving Templates
One of the best time-savers for most any task is the use of a template. You may use them in Microsoft Word for meeting agendas, newsletters, or reports. In Excel, templates are just as useful. For project timelines, calendars, invoices, budgets, and more, taking advantage of these convenient pre-formatted tools can definitely save you time.
Obtaining templates that you need is just as easy as using them. The Microsoft website offers a variety of Excel templates for calendars, planners, expense trackers, and time sheets. Vertex42 has a nice selection for schedules, budgets, to-do lists, and balance sheets. Another great resource is Spreadsheet 123 for invoices, inventory, sign-in sheets, and attendance forms.
2. Freezing Rows and Columns
If you have a lengthy spreadsheet containing tons of data, you may have to scroll too far down or even across to view it all. This means you will lose sight of your headings and find yourself constantly scrolling back to see them. However, if you freeze the rows and columns, then those headers will remain as you move through your spreadsheet.
- Navigate to the View tab and select Freeze Panes on the ribbon.
- In the Freeze Panes drop-down, select Freeze Top Row, Freeze First Column, or choose both if needed.
Now when you scroll up, down, right, or left, you will notice your headers will remain visible. To unfreeze those rows and columns, just select Freeze Panes command again and click Unfreeze Panes.
Note that in older versions of Excel, the process is a bit different. Select the cell that is common to both the row and column you want to freeze and then click Freeze Panes.
3. Operating the Fill Handle
The fill handle in Excel can be a huge time-saver when you need to populate multiple cells and there are a few different ways this feature can be used. First, you can quickly create a list of numbers that count up by entering 1 into the first cell and 2 in the cell below it. Then, select both cells and when the fill handle appears, just drag to populate the cells as needed.
When using the feature for dates, you can easily fill a column or row in increments of one day. For instance, you can enter 12/25/16 into the cell, select that cell, and when the fill handle appears just drag to add subsequent dates. This maneuver also works with days of the week and months of the year as well as downward through a column and across through a row.
Another handy use for the fill handle is if you need to populate an entire column with the same value for your spreadsheet. If you enter a word or letter, for example, select the cell and double-click the fill handle. This will enter that value into the remaining cells of the column as far down as your spreadsheet has data.
4. Transposing Columns and Rows
If you have a spreadsheet using headings in columns or rows (or both) and decide they would work better the opposite way, there is an easy process to make the change. This saves you from having to retype those headings. Here are the steps to move cells from row headings to column headings.
- Select the cells in the column that contain the headings.
- Either right-click and select Copy or click the Copy button on the Home tab of the ribbon.
- Select the cell in the row and column where you want the headings to start.
- Either right-click and select Paste Special or click Paste and then Paste Special on the Home tab of the ribbon.
- Select the checkbox near the bottom right that says Transpose.
- Click OK.
5. Accessing the Calculator
While you may use an add-in that pops a calculator into the sidebar of your spreadsheet, you can also take advantage of the built-in calculator feature. This is convenient when you want to perform quick calculations that are not formulated into your spreadsheet. And, you can add the calculator to either your ribbon or Quick Access toolbar.
To add the calculator to either location, begin by selecting File > Options. Then choose either Customize Ribbon or Quick Access Toolbar, depending on where you want it. In the Choose commands from drop-down box, pick All Commands. Scroll down, click Calculator, and then hit the Add button to insert it into the toolbar. Note that if you choose to add it to your ribbon, you will have to create a custom group and add it there.
6. Linking to Tabs or Cells
If your workbook contains several spreadsheets with data being cross-referenced between them, creating a direct link provides speedy access. This is especially helpful if you are sharing a workbook so that others can jump to that data quickly. Follow these simple steps to create the link:
- Select the cell containing the data that you want to link.
- Either right-click and select Hyperlink or go to the Insert tab and click Hyperlink in the ribbon.
- In the pop-up window, select Place in this Document.
- Then enter the text to display in that cell, a specific cell reference if desired, and the spreadsheet in the workbook with the data you are linking to.
- Click OK.
7. Using Keyboard Shortcuts
If you are an avid Excel user, then keyboard shortcuts can certainly save you time. While there are almost too many keyboard shortcuts to list, here are several that can speed up your tasks.
- F4 (or Fn + F4) to repeat the last command, including formatting changes such as color or font.
- Alt + H, E, A to erase the contents, formatting, and other data attached to the selected cells.
- Ctrl + W to close a spreadsheet and Ctrl + O to open one.
- Ctrl + Shift + Colon to enter the current time and Ctrl + Shift + Semicolon for the current date.
- Shift + F9 to calculate the active worksheet.
- Shift + Tab to move to the previous cell or option.
- Ctrl + Home to move to the beginning of the spreadsheet.
- Ctrl + Page Down to move to the next spreadsheet in a workbook and Ctrl + Page Up to move to the previous one.
What Are Your Favorite Time-Saving Features?
As we all continue to use Microsoft Excel, we keep finding out little tricks that help save us time.
Do you have tricks of your own that you use regularly and would like to share with others? Please share those helpful tips in the comments below!
Image Credits: Andreas Poertner/Shutterstock