Excel – Never use the mouse

I spend a lot of time building models on Excel. I have 4 rules that help me get things done fast.

  1. Never use the mouse. The keyboard is much faster.
  2. Never type in data. You can always import it.
  3. Avoid manual labour. Use Excel to automate the task.
  4. Make your data visually obvious.

Let’s look at Rule #1: Never use the mouse.

Using the keyboard can be 10 times faster than the mouse. It takes time to move one hand from the keyboard to the mouse, locate the item you want to click at, move the mouse there, adjust it finely so it’s pointing at the exact spot, and then click it. For example, to insert text without formatting, I’d just go Alt-E, S, enter. It takes half a second. It took me 5 seconds with a mouse. (I timed 10 continuous attempts in both cases.)

A factor of 10 speed advantage like that is good for two reasons: it saves you time, and it doesn’t distract you from what you’re doing (provided the keyboard shortcuts have become a habit.)

For newbies: To use menus using keyboard shortcuts, first go to Start – Settings – Control Panel – Display – Appearance tab – Effects button – Hide underlined letters for keyboard navigation until I press the Alt key. Make sure it is turned off. To use a menu, let’s say “Insert – Row”. look for the underlined letter on the menu bar (the “I” on “Insert”), press Alt and the underlined letter (Alt-I in this case), and look for the underlined letter on the next menu item (“R” on the “Rows” in this case) and press that letter. So, Alt-I-R is the shortcut to insert a row. Now, just practice Alt-I-R, Alt-I-R, Alt-I-R repeatedly.

Shortcuts next to the menu are quicker, where they exist. For example, the Ctrl-C next to the Edit-Copy menu.

Apart from the arrow keys, Ctrl-S, Ctrl-X, Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V, the keys I use frequently are:

  • F2: edit the current cell
  • F4: repeat the last action (very useful)
  • Ctrl-Z, Ctrl-Y: Undo, Redo
  • Ctrl-1: Format cells
  • Ctrl-Shift-down arrow: Select all filled cells below selection (also works with other arrow keys)
  • Ctrl-PgUp/PgDn: Shift between tabs
  • Ctrl-Home/End: Go to top-left, or bottom-right of the sheet (or cell, if you’re editing a cell)
  • Ctrl-`: Show formulae
  • Shift-Space, Ctrl-Space: Select row, select column
  • Alt-Enter: To create a new line while you’re typing in a cell
  • Alt-E-I-S-Enter: Select a set of cells and fill a continuous series of numbers in it
  • Alt-E-S-Enter: Paste unformatted text
  • Alt-D-G-G: Group a set of rows (use Alt-D-G-U for ungroup)
  • Alt-D-G-S: Show a collapsed group (use Alt-D-G-H to collapse a group)
  • Alt-O-D: Conditional formatting
  • Alt-F8: Macros
  1. Nametest says:


  2. E R Suresh Narain says:

    very useful

  3. afreen says:

    how to arrange all cells alphabetically without modify any thing , like date ,amount & other things For e.g. Dt Party name Amount 12.03.08 Tema 2000 13.03.08 L& T 6000 It is arrange alphabetically Party wise

  4. Jayant says:

    Thanks Anand. Good set of tips. Ofcourse, one can always go to microsoft page and download the entire set of shortcuts.

  5. bluski says:

    rules 2,3,4??

  6. bluski says:

    ignore the one above…just testing

  7. Aditya says:

    Good Post! Really useful.

  8. Sathish says:

    How will this be displayed if I don’t type my name?

  9. ANIA says:


  10. vic says:

    F4 seems to have changed! Used to be able to keep on pressing F4 multiple times to repeat. Now it only works once or twice. Why?

  11. yowan says:

    thanks for the excel tips and song search engine

  12. Subramanian S says:

    VEry useful tips Anand. Helps me a lot at work.

  13. Payal says:

    Hey can any1 help me with how to go to other spreadsheet (ie. from sheet1 to sheet 2) without the use of mouse?

  14. Ian says:

    Change sheets with keyboard? Ctrl-Pgup/Ctrl-PgDn

  15. Kalevi says:

    Shift+F8 allows you to select cells from different parts of the document.

  16. remove keys says:

    remove the f1, caps, left windows keys. maybe numlock.

  17. Vinnie says:

    I came up with article on citehr where they show how you can work without any formula. This was a good article

    How you can work in Excel without knowing any formulas

    1. How to change CASE in Excel


    2. How to Convert Columnar Data into Tabular Form


    3. How to COLOUR Duplicate Rows in Excel


    4. How to Change UPPER & lower Case in Excel


    5. How to Remove all DUPLICATES in Excel


    6. How to REMOVE Extra SPACES in Excel


    7. How to Remove NUMBERS & ALPHABETS in Excel


    8. How to CLEAN Data in Excel


    Hope this helps and this is from a tool from http://exceladdins.net

  18. J.V.SSUBBARAO says:

    Dragging The lines of Tables margins without mouse support

  19. Laura says:

    For the new Excel 2010, how do we create and modify a Pivot table without using the mouse?
    We know that we hit ALT + D, P to get the Pivot table and then select through the Pivot wizard. However, once the pivot is created and becomes time to select the criteria, we cannot figure out how to get onto the selection panel without using a mouse. Suggestions?