The one thing marketers agree on is there isn't enough time in the day to accomplish everything. Often the best way to find more time is to save time.
Improving your Excel skills is a great place to begin to claw back a few minutes on every project, because Excel is a tool used by most of us on a regular basis. It has so many incredible capabilities that are not immediately apparent. Just finding one trick can save you minutes every day.
Excel Tip No. 1: Automatically SUM() with ALT + =
Quickly add an entire column or row by clicking in the first empty cell in the column. Then enter ALT + ‘=' (equals key) to add up the numbers in every cell above.
Excel Tip No. 2: Logic for Number Formatting Keyboard Shortcuts
At times keyboard shortcuts seem random, but there is logic behind them. Let's break an example down. To format a number as a currency the shortcut is CRTL + SHIFT + 4.
Both the SHIFT and 4 keys seem random, but they're intentionally used because SHIFT + 4 is the dollar sign ($). Therefore if we want to format as a currency, it's simply: CTRL + ‘$' (where the dollar sign is SHIFT + 4). The same is true for formatting a number as a percent.
Excel Tip No. 3: Display Formulas with CTRL + `
When you're troubleshooting misbehaving numbers first look at the formulas. Display the formula used in a cell by hitting just two keys: Ctrl + ` (known as the acute accent key) – this key is furthest to the left on the row with the number keys. When shifted it is the tilde (~).
Excel Tip No. 4: Jump to the Start or End of a Column Keyboard Shortcut
You are thousands of rows deep into your data set and need to get to the first or last cell. Scrolling is OK but the quickest way is to use the keyboard shortcut CTRL + ↑ to jump to the top cell, or CTRL + ↓ to drop to the last cell before an empty cell.
When you combine this shortcut with the SHIFT key, you'll select a continuous block of cells from your original starting point.
Excel Tip No. 5: Repeat a Formula to Multiple Cells
Never type out the same formula over and over in new cells again. This trick populates all of the cells in a column with the same formula, but adjusts to use the data specific to each row.
Create the formula you need in the first cell. Then move your cursor to the lower right corner of that cell and, when it turns into a plus sign, double click to copy that formula into the rest of the cells in that column. Each cell in the column will show the results of the formula using the data in that row.
Excel Tip No. 6: Add or Delete Columns Keyboard Shortcut
Managing columns and rows in your spreadsheet is an all-day task. Whether adding or deleting, you can save a little time when you use this keyboard shortcut. CTRL + ‘-‘ (minus key) will delete the column your cursor is in and CTRL + SHIFT + ‘=' (equal key) will add a new column. From an earlier tip, think about CTRL + ‘+' (plus sign).
Excel Tip No. 7: Adjust Width of One or Multiple Columns
It's easy to adjust a column to the width of its content and get rid of those useless ##### entries. Click on the column's header, move your cursor to the right side of the header and double click when it turns into a plus sign.
Excel Tip No. 8: Copy a Pattern of Numbers or Even Dates
Another amazing feature built into Excel is its ability to recognize a pattern in your data, and allow you to automatically copy it to other cells. Simply enter information in two rows which establish the pattern, highlight those rows and drag down for as many cells as you want to populate. This works with numbers, days of the week or months!
Excel Tip No. 9: Tab Between Worksheets
Jumping from worksheet to worksheet doesn't mean you have to move your hand off the keyboard with this cool shortcut. To change to the next worksheet to the right enter CTRL + PGDN. And conversely change to the worksheet to the left by entering CTRL + PGUP.
Excel Tip No. 10: Double Click Format Painter
Format Painter is a great tool which lets you duplicate a format in other cells with no more effort than a mouse click. Many Excel users (Outlook, Word and PowerPoint too) use this handy feature, but did you know you can double-click Format Painter to copy the format into multiple cells? It's quite a time-saver.
More Excel Tricks Are Out There
Excel is amazing. Many easy to use tricks are built-in just waiting to be utilized to make your data easier to manage. These are not revolutionary, but incrementally add up to time savings. Hope these ideas will help you reclaim some time when you sit down in front of Excel.
What tricks do you employ to make the most of your time with Excel? Feel free to share in the comments so we can all benefit!
Editor's note: This column originally was published on September 5, 2013, and comes in at No. 3 on our countdown of the 10 most read Search Engine Watch columns of 2013. As the clock ticks down to 2014, we're celebrating the Best of 2013 by revisiting our most popular columns, as determined by our readers. Enjoy and keep checking back!