Who doesn’t love a shortcut? With all the hours we Excel users spend on the computer, a huge amount of time can be saved every day by learning the keyboard shortcut commands. Did you know that for every mouse click on your computer, it takes several times longer than the equivalent keyboard shortcut? (If you don’t believe me, try creating a new document with the mouse versus the shortcut Control-N!)

As a heavy Excel user (and ex-RSI sufferer!), I’ve always been a dedicated advocate of the keyboard shortcuts. I have learned that advanced Excel users use on average only 44 distinct operations per month; for example, copy, paste, insert function etc.

Excel is one of the software products in which users can most benefit from using keyboard shortcuts. Working in Excel – particularly for the purpose of financial modelling – can be very time-consuming and increasing your speed and accuracy when modelling will increase productivity significantly. Those who are just starting out with using Excel, are comfortable with using the mouse to get the job done. However, with growing familiarity, the mouse is not the fastest or most efficient way of modelling. Excel offers a lot of shortcuts to tackle this problem, and as you become a faster modeller, you will find these shortcuts very handy.

There are many advantages of using Excel shortcuts:

  1. Ease of use: While intuitively it may seem like mouse is the more comfortable option, but it a lot more comfortable for your wrist, arm and shoulders to punch the keys on the keyboard than trying to align the cursor on the screen.
  2. Easier on the Body: Given the natural placement of keyboard and mouse on any desktop, using the keyboard more often is less stressful on the body. Using the mouse constantly can cause stress on the wrists and shoulders. With the mouse most users typically end up using just the wrists and index finger which can cause fatigue and long term problems.
  3. Speed of execution: Keystrokes are much faster than the mouse. To put this to test, try creating a new worksheet in Excel using the mouse by clicking on File (or Microsoft Button in Excel 2007), then New – Blank Workbook. Alternatively try the shortcut CTRL-N There is a distinct improvement in speed with keystrokes over the mouse click.
  4. Standard Shortcuts: Within the Windows environment, you will find that similar functions have the same shortcuts so it is not like you are developing expertise in just Excel. The shortcuts in Excel are generally common across all other office suites and even other applications like browsers, notepad, paintbrush, etc.
  5. No Other Choice: There are some functions where unless you use the shortcuts you will not get the desired results – without manual edits. For example, when creating an array formula, the shortcut Control-Shift-Enter is the only way to get your array formula to insert correctly.

For a small selection of some of the most common and particularly useful shortcuts that are invaluable in using Excel for the purpose of financial modelling, Download the handy cheatsheet here. This file forms part of the supplementary content for the Wiley Finance book “Using Excel for Business and Financial Modelling”.