Microsoft Excel Tips to Increase Productivity

Spreadsheets are a great way to quickly manipulate numbers and these Excel tips will help you to be even more efficient.

Microsoft Excel Tips For Customizing The Program
Wouldn't it be more efficient to have Excel open already configured to the way you work? Changing the default settings is as easy as clicking Tools, Options in the menu bar. The Options dialog box gives you a host of customization options, including:

  • The General tab. On the General tab, you can set the default font, file location and even the number of sheets in a new workbook.
  • The View tab. The View tab lets you customize the Excel interface including settings for formula and status bars, display of comments and features specific to the spreadsheet window, like scrollbars and gridlines.
  • The Calculation tab. The Calculation tab lets you tell Excel how to handle calculated fields. Setting calculation to manual can save you time as you work with larger spreadsheets by enhancing the performance of the program. To force a recalculation of your spreadsheet, press the F9 function key.

Excel Productivity Tips

  • The fill handle. When you select a cell, the border of the cell becomes highlighted. Did you ever notice the little black square at the lower right of a highlighted cell? That square is called the fill handle. By clicking and dragging the fill handle, you can quickly fill a range of cells. For example, select cell A1 and type "10". Now, drag the fill handle down four rows to A5. When you release the fill handle, the cells under A1 are filled with "10". Now, enter "10" into A1 and "20" into A2. Select both cells and drag the fill handle down three cells. When you release the fill handle, the cells below A1 and A2 are filled with "30", "40", and "50". The fill handle automatically increments the fill by the difference of the first two cells.
  • More fill handle fun. The fill handle can also be used to quickly insert rows or columns into a spreadsheet. To insert rows, select a row by clicking its label on the left side of the spreadsheet. Click on the fill handle while holding down the SHIFT key. Drag the fill handle to highlight the number of rows you want to insert. Release the fill handle and blank rows will be inserted. Note that this works for columns as well and works in either direction.
  • Apply formatting quickly. The format painter allows you to copy the formatting of a cell and apply it to other cells quickly. To use the format painter, select a cell and then click on the toolbar icon that looks like a paintbrush. The selected cell will now have a blinking, marquee border. Click on a cell or drag to select a range of cells. When you release the mouse button, the selected formatting will be applied to the cell(s) you chose.
  • Take a shortcut. Excel has many keyboard shortcuts that cut down on the time it takes to navigate the menus. The help file (available by pressing F1) and the Microsoft Office Web site have lists of these shortcuts. Learn Excel keyboard shortcuts, and you'll keep your hands off the mouse, which makes it much faster to get your work done. 
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