Navigating in Excel

I’m often amazed when watching people use Excel how difficult they seem to find navigating around their workbooks. They’re always using the mouse and reaching for the scrollbars to drag the sheet around to find a particular cell. If you’re lucky they know to use the mouse wheel to scroll. If you’re unlucky they use the mouse wheel to scroll long distances which can be tedious in the extreme.

Excel, like all good applications can be used entirely from the keyboard and often this is much faster than reaching for the mouse.

Everyone should know that the arrow (cursor) keys move the current focus or insertion point left, right, up or down and I hope they know that holding the Shift key down at the same time selects the characters, cells, etc in the given direction. Far fewer people, however, seem to know that holding the Ctrl+Arrow will take you to the edge of the current contiguous block of data, that Ctrl+Home takes you to the top left cell or that Ctrl+End moves focus to the bottom right cell of the current worksheet.

Here’s a quick summary of useful navigation keys for Excel.

ArrowsMove focus by one cellMove to end of data rangeSelect by cellSelect to end of data range
HomeMove to beginning of rowMove to beginning of worksheetSelect to beginning of rowSelect to beginning of worksheet
EndTurns on “End Mode”Move to last cell in worksheetTurns on “End Mode”Select to last cell in worksheet
Page UpMove up one screen fullMove to previous sheetSelect up one screen fullSelect this sheet and the previous
Page DownMove down one screen fullMove to next sheetSelect down one screen fullSelect this sheet and the next
SpaceInsert a spaceSelect columnSelect rowSelect sheet


In “End Mode” the next arrow key moves the focus to that edge of the current data range, the same as Ctrl+Arrow. If you press End and then Shift+Arrow, you select the cells to that edge of the data range, the same as Ctrl+Shift+Arrow.

To select the whole of the current data range, press Ctrl+Shift+* or Ctrl+A. Ctrl+A is a little more intelligent as it selects just table data, if focus is in a table. Pressing it a second time includes the table header. Pressing it a third time will select the whole sheet.

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